Cigarettes and alcohol will take 10 years off your life

40-year survey of 19,000 men reveals benefits of healthy living in middle-age

Doctors have for the first time quantified the effect of the three major killers of middle-aged men: smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Men who smoke and fail to give up, or to control their blood pressure and cholesterol (where necessary) are sacrificing 10 to 15 years of their lives.

Results from the 40-year Whitehall study, landmark research into 19,000 civil servants begun in the late 1960s, shows that men who reached the age of 50 with all three risk factors lived on average to the age of 73, while those without any of the risks lived till 83. When other risks were included, such as diabetes and obesity, they found the least healthy lived until 70 on average, while the most healthy lived till 85.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which helped fund the research published in the British Medical Journal, said: "This important study puts a figure on the life-limiting effects of smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It provides a stark illustration of how these risk factors in middle age can reduce life expectancy."

He added: "The good news is that all of us can make changes to help us live a healthy life for longer, even after 50. We know that stopping smoking and reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, by lifestyle changes and/or tablets, can prevent the onset of heart disease – and these findings suggest it could make a decade of difference to our lives."

The finding comes after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) yesterday called for improvements in the treatment of heart disease. One in four GPs are failing to manage cholesterol levels or prescribe appropriately and an estimated 350,000 patients are missing out on the treatment they need, the commission said.

The CQC report called for changes in the way doctors are paid for treating heart disease to encourage them to identify more patients. Currently, GPs get maximum payments when they record acceptable cholesterol levels for 70 per cent of the patients on their register.

The CQC said further payments should be introduced to capture the one in three patients who may not be being seen by their GP once the practice has received its maximum payment under existing rules. It said action was needed to cut inequalities between people living in deprived areas and those in more affluent parts of the country. One reason for the discrepancy is that GPs do not follow "proven practice" consistently.

Researchers analysed the performance of 8,300 GP practices and 152 primary care trusts and found that, while incentivising GPs with specific payments to manage cholesterol levels in their patients was working, there were further improvement to be made.

Too many GPs were prescribing expensive branded statins when equally effective, cheaper non-branded ones were available. The CQC estimated that £62.5m could be saved if GPs mostly switched to prescribing generic statins.

Family doctors were not doing enough to record cases of cardiovascular disease in deprived areas. They were also less likely to prescribe nicotine-replacement products to patients.

CQC chair, Barbara Young, said: "This disease is likely to touch every single one of us at some point in our lives. We have to raise the bar of acceptable performance."


Average age of men who smoked, drank and ate poorly.


Average age of men without all three risk factors.

ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

    £18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power