A new study has reported that people who are genetically predisposed to a shorter life could live up to five years longer if they followed a healthy lifestyle. 

Scientists explored how the odds of survival can be improved through a healthy lifestyle despite the huge influence of genetics in the first study of its kind.

353,742 people from the UK Biobank were involved in the research which followed people for 13 years on average, during which time 24,239 deaths occurred.

Staff from Zhejiang University School of Medicine in China and the University of Edinburgh were involved in the research.

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The study, which was published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, showed that those with a high genetic risk of a shorter life have a 21% increased risk of early death compared with those with a low genetic risk, regardless of their lifestyle.

Meanwhile, those who led unhealthy lifestyles had a 78% increased chance of early death, regardless of their genetic risk.

People who combined an unhealthy lifestyle and shorter lifespan genes more than doubled the risk of early death compared with people with luckier genes and healthy lifestyles.

The researchers also reported that people did appear to have a degree of control over what happened.

The genetic risk of a shorter lifespan or premature death may be offset by a favourable lifestyle by around 62%, the findings said.

A healthy lifestyle could add 5 years to your life

The team of experts commented: “Participants with high genetic risk could prolong approximately 5.22 years of life expectancy at age 40 with a favourable lifestyle.”

The “optimal lifestyle combination” for a longer life was found to be “never smoking, regular physical activity, adequate sleep duration, and healthy diet.”

Within the study, people were grouped into three genetically determined lifespan categories.

These were divided into long (20.1%), intermediate (60.1%), and short (19.8%).

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They were also separated into three lifestyle score categories including favourable (23.1%), intermediate (55.6%), and unfavourable (21.3%).

Researchers used polygenic risk scores to look at multiple genetic variants to arrive at a person’s overall genetic predisposition to a longer or shorter life.

Additionally, other scores looked at whether people smoked, drank alcohol, took exercise, their body shape, healthy diet and sleep.