Healthy lifestyle could counter genetic risk of shorter life, says study, ET HealthWorld

New Delhi: Adopting a healthy lifestyle could counter the effects of life-shortening genes by more than 60 per cent, according to new research published in the British Medical Journal Evidence-Based Medicine. Researchers found four factors to make up the most favourable lifestyle combination — not smoking, regular physical activity, adequate nightly sleep, and a healthy diet.

The team, including researchers from Zhejiang University School of Medicine, China, found that while genes and lifestyle together impact a person’s lifespan, an unhealthy lifestyle could heighten the risk of dying prematurely by 78 per cent, regardless of their genetic inclinations.

However, “the genetic risk of a shorter lifespan or premature death might be offset by a favourable lifestyle by approximately 62 per cent”, the authors wrote.

The researchers analysed the data of more than 3.5 lakh adults, recruited to the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010, and whose health was tracked up until 2021. Each participant’s genetic predisposition to longer or shorter lifespan was arrived at using polygenic risk score (PRS). Lifestyle factors including diet and sleep habits were also studied.

The authors found that starting a healthy lifestyle at the age of 40 years could enhance life expectancy by roughly 5.5 years in those having a high genetic risk of a shorter lifespan.

They added that given how lifestyle habits tend to be cemented before middle age, measures taken to address the effects of life-shortening genes are needed before then.

The researchers also found that regardless of lifestyle, individuals having genes favouring a shorter lifespan were 21 per cent more likely to die early than those having genes favouring a long life.

Further, the combination of life-shortening genes and unfavourable lifestyle could place an individual twice as likely to die compared to one having both long-life genes and a favourable lifestyle.

“This study elucidates the pivotal role of a healthy lifestyle in mitigating the impact of genetic factors on lifespan reduction,” the authors wrote.

The team acknowledged that European ancestry of the participants could limit applying the findings to a wider population. Further, being an observational study, no causal links could be established, they said.

  • Published On May 1, 2024 at 06:25 AM IST

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