There are five main crucial factors for living a disease-free life: regular exercise, non-smoking, low body weight, healthy diet, and low alcohol intake, according to a recent 35-year study in Wales that was published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal. People who maintained four or five of these behaviors had a 60 percent decreased risk of dementia and cognitive decline and a 70 percent decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke compared to people who maintained none of these behaviors.

“The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an aging population,” said Peter Elwood, MD. “What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health—healthy behaviors have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”

Less than one percent of the Wales population follows all five recommended behaviors, illustrating the importance for this message to be understood and implemented. As Wales is a Western country, following the Western lifestyle, my guess is that the United States follows a similar pattern.

The study followed over 2,200 men aged 45–59 over 35 years. “The results of this study overwhelmingly support the notion that adopting a healthy lifestyle reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia. These findings will hopefully go a long way in encouraging people to carefully consider their lifestyle and how it will impact on their health in later years,” said Christopher Allen, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, a co-sponsor of the study.

If you have not yet implemented four or five healthy behaviors found in this study, I encourage you to do so. You will live a healthier, more vibrant life by reducing your risk for disease.