FRIDAY, Oct. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Change your lifestyle, change your life span.
That's the claim of a new study that found not smoking, watching your weight and continuing to learn new things could help you live longer.
And genes play a part in the lifestyle choices people make, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
"The power of big data and genetics allow us to compare the effect of different behaviors and diseases in terms of months and years of life lost or gained, and to distinguish between mere association and causal effect," researcher Jim Wilson said in a university news release. But this study didn't prove that lifestyle choices cause life span to shorten or lengthen.
For the study, scientists analyzed genetic information from more than 600,000 people in North America, Europe and Australia to determine how genes affect life span.
For example, certain genes are associated with increased alcohol consumption and addiction, the study authors explained.
Smoking and traits associated with lung cancer had the greatest effect on shortening life expectancy. The researchers determined that smoking a pack of cigarettes each day over a lifetime leads to an average loss of seven years of life.
But the good news was that smokers who quit the habit lived as long as people who never smoked, according to the report.
The investigators also found that body fat and other factors linked to diabetes reduce life expectancy. For every excess 2.2 pounds a person carries, life expectancy is cut by two months, the findings showed.
People who are open to new experiences and who have higher levels of learning also tend to live longer, the researchers said. Every year spent studying beyond school added almost a year to a person's life span.
Wilson and colleagues also found that differences in a gene that affects blood cholesterol levels can reduce life span by around eight months, and differences in a gene linked to the immune system can add about half a year to life expectancy.
The study was published Oct. 13 in the journal Nature Communications.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers healthy living resources.