Women Can Cut Premature Death Risk in Half by Simple Lifestyle Changes

Women can reduce the risk of premature death over half by not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a good diet including drinking alcohol in moderation, and keeping their weight down.

That's the finding of a study of 77,782 women who were studied over a period of 24 years and who were free of cancer and cardiovascular disease at the start of the study in 1980.

The five lifestyle factors of smoking cigarettes, being overweight, engaging in little exercise, abstaining from alcohol, and having a poor diet were all found to be risk factors for premature death.

The results confirm the findings of an earlier study of individuals in eleven European countries aged 70 to 90 who were followed for ten years.
Eating a Mediterranean diet, drinking alcohol in moderation, engaging in physical activity, and not smoking were each associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality. The same was true for mortality individually from cancer, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular diseases. The combination of all four behaviors lowered the all-cause mortality rate dramatically.

Not engaging in these four behaviors was associated with a population attributable risk of 60% of all deaths, 64% of deaths from coronary heart disease, 61% from cardiovascular diseases, and 60% from cancer.


  • van Dam, R., et al. Combined impact of lifestyle factors on mortality: prospective cohort study in US women, British Medical Journal, 2008, 337,1440;
  • Knoops KT, et al. Mediterranean diet, lifestyle factors, and 10-year mortality in elderly European men and women: the HALE project. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004, 292, 1433-9.

Filed Under: Womens Health