The true cost of an unhealthy lifestyle of little exercise, poor diet and smoking has been quantified by scientists who found that it can reduce lifespan by 23 years.
People who develop largely preventable conditions like heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes are cutting their life short by decades, a 50 year study has shown.
It is estimated that around 80 per cent of cases could be prevented by keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking or drinking too much.
For a man in his 40s, suffering from all three conditions reduces life by 23 years. It means that a 40-year-old’s life expectacy would drop from 78 to just 55. Likewise someone in their 60s could lose 15 years, meaning a 60-year-old man might have just three years of life left.
The cost is far greater than smoking, which is thought to limit lifespan by 10 years.
“We showed that having a combination of diabetes and heart disease is associated with a substantially lower life expectancy,” says Dr Emanuele Di Angelantonio from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge
“An individual in their sixties who has both conditions has an average reduction in life expectancy of about 15 years.”
More than three million people in Britain suffer from diabetes, while 2.7 million are living with heart disease and 1.2 million are recovering from a stroke. Nearly 100,000 suffer from all three conditions.
The researchers analysed data from 700,000 people who were recruited for Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration (ERFC) cohort between 1960 and 2007 and 500,000 participants fro, the UK Biobank who were recruited between 2006 and 2010.
From the 1.2 million people studied, 135,000 died during the research period.
The study authors used the information to estimate reductions in life expectancy associated with different conditions including diabetes, stroke, heart attack and other diseases.
“Our results highlight the importance of preventing heart disease and stroke amongst patients with diabetes, and likewise averting diabetes amongst heart disease patients,” said Professor John Danesh, Head of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care University of Cambridge and British Heart Foundation Professor.
“Although patients with more than one condition constitute only a small proportion of the population at large, in real terms the numbers are not insignificant.
“Measures aimed at reducing diabetes and heart disease amongst this group could have a dramatic impact on their lives.
“However, at the same time, we must not lose sight of tackling these serious conditions within the wider population.”
The researchers estimated that at the age of 60 years, men with any two of the cardiometabolic conditions studied would on average have 12 years of reduced life expectancy, and men with all three conditions would have 14 years of reduced life expectancy.
For women at the age of 60 years, the corresponding estimates were 13 years and 16 years of reduced life expectancy.
The figures were even more dramatic for patients at a younger age. At the age of 40 years, men with all three conditions would on average have 23 years of reduced life expectancy; for women at the same age, the corresponding estimate was 20 years.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, said: “The results of this large study emphasise the importance of preventing diabetes, heart attacks and strokes in the first place, through encouraging patients to live a healthier lifestyle and, where necessary, treating them with medication.
“Everyone should be aware of their risk of developing any of these conditions, and how they can reduce it. If you wait until you have developed one of these conditions before thinking about your wider health, you will already have reduced your life expectancy.”
The work was funded by the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, the National Institute of Health Research Cambridge Biomedical Resource Centre and the European Research Council.
The results with published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.