LONDON (REUTER) - A healthy lifestyle not only makes you feel better but can double the chance of avoiding heart attack, stroke or diabetes, medical researchers said. They said that losing weight, taking exercise and giving up smoking had a huge impact on living a life free of major cardiovascular disease. Britain has the third highest death rate from heart disease in the world, topped only by Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Japan is bottom, a Cardiovascular Disease Prevention conference in London heard. Dr Goya Wannamethee of London's Royal Free Hospital and fellow researchers studied 7,142 British men aged 40-59 years old. They found that the relative risk of having a stroke, heart attack or diabetes was almost two and a half times greater in heavy smokers compared to those who had never smoked, and twice as great in men who were obese. "The study shows clearly the considerable importance of modifiable lifestyle factors to long term survival free of cardiovascular disease and diabetes and confirms the need to target health education early," she added. Doctor Simon Thom of Imperial College London said only a small increase in activity was necessary to reap the benefits of protection from heart disease, particularly among older men. "Some 50 per cent of the UK population do little more daily exercise than breathing," Thom said. He said activities as gentle as playing golf or mowing the lawn while seated on a tractor were beneficial while doing housework and carrying golf clubs as well as playing the game were regarded as moderate activity. "Moving from a sedentary to an active lifestyle brings a reduction in risk of 35 to 55 per cent," Thom said.