Getting more sleep, losing weight and not smoking can extend your life even in later years, a large study has shown.

The Japanese study looked at the benefits of healthy choices on life expectancy, including diet, exercise and alcohol intake and concluded that the results were “very clear”.

A team from Osaka University in Japan examined a previous research project of 49,021 people carried out from 1988 to1990 in 45 areas of Japan. Points were given for each healthy behaviour, and the effect of changing these lifestyle behaviours on projected life expectancy was scrutinised.

Dr Ryoto Sakaniwa, the study’s primary author, said: “The results were very clear. A higher number of modified healthy behaviours was directly associated with great longevity for both men and women.”

The best gains were to be found in drinking less alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough sleep, which can extend a healthy 40-year-old’s life expectancy by up to six years.

What was also promising was that these benefits could also be seen in those aged 80 years or more, and people living with one or more serious health issues, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Senior author Professor Hiroyasu Iso said: “This is a particularly important finding given that the prevalence of chronic disease has increased globally and is a major cause of death in older populations.”

The findings could help to shape future healthcare provisions and policies to promote healthy lifestyles.

The study has been published in the journal Age and Aging.

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