Healthy habits override genetics to extend lifespan

Christine Humphreys
by Christine Humphreys
Published: May 07, 2024
People running to keep fit
Healthy habits can offset genetic traits that predict short life expectancy by more than 60%.
Researchers have found that people at increased risk of early death due to their genes can gain about 5.5 years through lifestyle choices.
They analysed data from 353,742 adults whose health was tracked between 2006 and 2021 for the UK Biobank records.
It was found that those with unhealthy habits were 78% more likely to die young regardless of their genetic makeup.
People genetically predisposed to a short lifespan were 21% more likely to die early than those inheriting long-life genes, regardless of their lifestyle.
But those at high risk who had unhealthy habits were twice as likely to die young than those dealt the dodgy genes who ate well, drank little, avoided tobacco, slept well and took regular exercise.
Meanwhile, they found that genetic risk of premature death could be counteracted by these favourable behaviours by around 62%.
The study, the first to look into the impact of lifestyle on genetic life-expectancy, was conducted at Zhejiang University School of Medicine in China and published online in the BMJ Evidence Based Medicine journal.
Scientists involved in the research point out that the data related only to people of European descent and recommended further studies involving wider ethnic diversity.
They also caution that lifestyle factors were assessed at only one point in time and that lifestyle choices may change at different points throughout a person’s life.
Nevertheless, they believe their findings show that those at genetic risk of premature death could extend their life expectancy by nearly 5.5 years by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
They concluded: "This study elucidates the pivotal role of a healthy lifestyle in mitigating the impact of genetic factors on lifespan reduction.
“Public health policies for improving healthy lifestyles would serve as potent complements to conventional health care and mitigate the influence of genetic factors on human lifespan.”
Christine Humphreys

About The Author

Christine Humphreys
Chris Humphreys is the co-founder of The Alcohol-Free Shop and She was a journalist for more years than she cares to remember. Ex-wife of an alcoholic, enthusiastic amateur musician and a passionate dog lover.