Univeristy of OxfordWe’ve heard of numerous studies claiming smoking to be injurious for health. Smoking supposedly causes various lung disorders, lung cancer and heart diseases. It now emerges that it may also play a key role in reducing our life span. Apparently, men with a smoking habit, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels can have risks of a shorter life span as compared to people without these factors by 10-15 years. At least that’s what experts from the Oxford University claim.

Apparently, the new study contains data from the Whitehall study. Since 1970, the Whitehall study examined the health of 19,000 male civil servants belonging to the age group of 40-69.

Dr Robert Clarke of the Clinical Trial Service Unit at the University of Oxford, who led the team, says “We’ve shown that men at age 50 who smoke, have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels can expect to survive to 74 years of age, while those who have none of these risk factors can expect to live until 83.”

“We’ve been able to refine this further by computing a risk score for each study participant that also includes body mass index and diabetes as well as these three risk factors. Looking at those at the extremes, we find that the 5% with the highest risk scores have a 15 year reduced life expectancy compared to the 5% with the lowest scores,” adds Dr. Robert.

Since the early 70’s, mortality rates because of heart diseases and other diseases have slowly declined in the UK, resulting in a phenomenal betterment in life expectancy. It is believed that people can have a longer life span when they quit smoking, bring changes in their diet and lifestyle and get a better treatment for vascular diseases.

“The Whitehall study was set up in 1970 at the peak of a heart disease epidemic in the UK to look at the effects of smoking, blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” explains Dr Clarke.

Since that time, experts seem to have closely followed the happenings of 19,000 civil servants through middle age and old age over a period of 38 years.

“It is precisely this kind of very prolonged follow-up study that is necessary to get these results – that modest differences in heart risk factors can accurately predict significant differences in life expectancy,” he adds.

The participants in the study had to fill a questionnaire with the details of their previous medical history, smoking habits, employment grade and marital status. The initial examination made an account of vital information like height, weight, blood pressure, lung function and blood cholesterol and glucose levels.

With the funds given by the British Heart Foundation, the records of around 18,863 men were examined. 7,004 surviving participants were re-examined in the year 1997.

Dr Clarke further mentions, “The results give people another way of looking at heart disease risk factors that can be understood more readily. If you stop smoking or take measures to deal with high blood pressure or body weight, it will translate into increased life expectancy. It also provides support for existing public health policies. Bans on smoking in public places, efforts to lower saturated fats and salt, combined with medications for those at high risk of cardiovascular disease, when taken together will result in substantial improvements in life expectancy across the population.”

The study suggests that men who smoke appear to have high blood pressure and raised cholesterol at age 50. They can supposedly expect to live 10 years less than those without these risk factors.

The Oxford University study was published in BMJ.