Context: Whether a healthy lifestyle may be associated with longer telomere length is largely unknown.
Objectives: To examine healthy lifestyle practices, which are primary prevention measures against major age-related chronic diseases, in relation to leukocyte telomere length.
Design and setting: Cross-sectional analysis in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS).
Participants: The population consisted of 5,862 women who participated in multiple prospective case-control studies within the NHS cohort. Z scores of leukocyte telomere length were derived within each case-control study. Based on prior work, we defined low-risk or healthy categories for five major modifiable factors assessed in 1988 or 1990: non-current smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight (body mass index in 18.5-24.9 kg/m(2)), engaging in regular moderate or vigorous physical activities (≥150 minutes/week), drinking alcohol in moderation (1 drink/week to <2 drinks/day), and eating a healthy diet (Alternate Healthy Eating Index score in top 50%). We calculated difference (%) of the z scores contrasting low-risk groups with reference groups to evaluate the association of interest.
Results: Although none of the individual low-risk factors was significantly associated with larger leukocyte telomere length z scores, we observed a significant, positive relationship between the number of low-risk factors and the z scores. In comparison with women who had zero low-risk factors (1.9% of the total population) and were, therefore, considered the least healthy group, the leukocyte telomere length z scores were 16.4%, 22.1%, 28.7%, 22.6%, and 31.2% (P for trend = 0.015) higher for women who had 1 to 5 low-risk factors, respectively.
Conclusions: Adherence to a healthy lifestyle, defined by major modifiable risk factors, was associated with longer telomere length in leukocytes.