Background: Though the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices are well-established among the general population, less is known about how developing and adhering to healthy lifestyle habits benefits obese versus normal weight or overweight individuals. The purpose of this study was to determine the association between healthy lifestyle habits (eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables daily, exercising regularly, consuming alcohol in moderation, and not smoking) and mortality in a large, population-based sample stratified by body mass index (BMI).
Methods: We examined the association between healthy lifestyle habits and mortality in a sample of 11,761 men and women from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III; subjects were ages 21 and older and fell at various points along the BMI scale, from normal weight to obese. Subjects were enrolled between October 1988 and October 1994 and were followed for an average of 170 months.
Results: After multivariable adjustment for age, sex, race, education, and marital status, the hazard ratios (95% CIs) for all-cause mortality for individuals who adhered to 0, 1, 2, or 3 healthy habits were 3.27 (2.36-4.54), 2.59 (2.06-3.25), 1.74 (1.51-2.02), and 1.29 (1.09-1.53), respectively, relative to individuals who adhered to all 4 healthy habits. When stratified into normal weight, overweight, and obese groups, all groups benefited from the adoption of healthy habits, with the greatest benefit seen within the obese group.
Conclusions: Healthy lifestyle habits are associated with a significant decrease in mortality regardless of baseline body mass index.