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Unhealthy Habits May Cost Canadians 6 Years of Life

Smoking, inactivity top the list of culprits, researchers say

TUESDAY, Aug. 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Poor habits that take a toll on health are also costing Canadians an average of six fewer years of life, new research suggests.

And the researchers contended the reverse was true -- folks with the healthiest lifestyles lived nearly 18 years longer than those with the poorest health-related lifestyles.

Smoking, an unhealthy diet, a lack of physical activity and excess alcohol use were the likely causes of about 50 percent of Canadian deaths, the researchers said.

"Unhealthy behaviors place a major burden on Canadian life expectancies," said lead author Dr. Doug Manuel, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, said in a hospital news release.

The researchers developed a new algorithm to review national data. The study authors concluded that 26 percent of all Canadian deaths are caused by smoking, 24 percent by inactivity, 12 percent by poor diet, and 0.4 percent by alcohol.

Smoking was the top risk factor for men. It was linked with a loss of just over three years of life. The top risk factor for women was inactivity, linked with a loss of three years of life, the study said. But the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link between lifestyle and longevity.

"This study identified which behaviors pose the biggest threat," Manuel said.

"Our [algorithm] is a new way of measuring the impact of health problems on life expectancy," Manuel said. "In an era of big data, we should be moving beyond the old methods that have remained largely unchanged for the past 60 years."

The study was published Aug. 16 in the journal PLoS Medicine.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers tips to stay healthy.

SOURCE: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, news release, Aug. 16, 2016

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