Ditching cigarettes, exercising and abstaining from alcohol can add up to 8 years onto a person’s life span even if they are chronically ill, researchers have said.

According to a University of Leicester study, not smoking is the single most effective health booster, followed by physical activity and giving up booze.

The team used health data from 480,000 adults aged about 45 and monitored their health for at least six years.

They then cross-referenced those who had been diagnosed with a chronic condition, such as cancer, dementia, asthma, diabetes, heart failure and anxiety, and tracked them to see how a healthy lifestyle impacted their health and their life expectancy.

How much they drank, smoked and exercised were noted down, in addition to their dietary habits. The researchers also took into account ethnicity, working status and body mass index.

The team discovered that men who had more than one health condition and scored low on their lifestyle only gained 1.5 extra years to their life, but a healthy approach increased their life expectancy by 4.5 years. However, for those who scored extremely highly in terms of living a healthy lifestyle, they gained 6.3 years.

In women those living an unhealthy lifestyle extended their life expectancy by 3.5 years, those who were a bit healthier added 6.4 years and the females who had adopted a really healthy approach to life increased their life by 7.6 years.

In fact, the researchers said living a healthier lifestyle was significant as extended life expectancy in everyone, irrespective of their health conditions.

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Lead researcher Yogini Chudasama said: “More individuals are living with multiple chronic conditions, impacting their health and daily lives. With access to a UK dataset of over 450,000 adults we were able to investigate the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in individuals with multiple illnesses.

“We found a healthy lifestyle, in particular abstinence from smoking, increased life expectancy by as much as seven years. Our study has important implications for the public’s health, as we hope our findings have shown that it’s never too late to make vital lifestyle changes.”

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