TUESDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- A healthy lifestyle nearly halves nonsmokers' risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease and other causes, a new study finds.

Most lifestyle guidelines for reducing the risk of illness and death warn against smoking or other types of tobacco use. But about 80 percent of Americans are never or former smokers, so the authors of this study wanted to assess the impact of healthy living recommendations other than tobacco avoidance.

They looked at diet and lifestyle questionnaires filled out in 1992 and 1993 by almost 112,000 non-smoking women and men in the Cancer Prevention Study. The participants were scored based on their adherence to American Cancer Society prevention guidelines regarding body mass index, physical activity, diet and alcohol consumption.

After 14 years of follow-up, participants who were highly compliant with the recommendations had a 42 percent lower risk of death vs. those who were the least compliant. Among those with higher compliance scores, the risk of cardiovascular-related death was 58 percent lower for women and 48 percent lower for men, and the risk of cancer death was 24 percent lower in women and 30 percent lower in men.

The findings were similar for both never and former smokers.

The study appears online in the journal Cancer Biomarkers, Epidemiology, and Prevention.

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