Recipe for a Happy, Healthy Old Age
May 1, 2008—What do men in their 90s have in common? They exercise regularly, don’t smoke, have normal blood pressure, and keep their figures, says a new study.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, examined the health and lifestyles of 2,372 senior men and followed them for 25 years. The men were age 65 or older and generally healthy at the beginning of the study, giving them all the possibility of reaching 90 by the end of the study, which 41% of them did.
• Smoking was the strongest predictor of dying before 90—nonsmokers were twice as likely to live past their 90th birthday.
• Diabetes was the second strongest risk factor for not seeing 90, followed by obesity and high blood pressure.
• Vigorous exercisers were 20 to 30% more likely to reach their 90s. Nonsmoking men who exercised and did not have diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure in their 70s were nearly 14 times more likely to live into their 90s than those who had none of these factors in their favor.
The men who lived to 90 or older reported better physical functioning, mental well-being, and self-perceived health on a survey they completed 16 years into the study. Smoking, obesity, and inactivity were also associated with poorer functioning in these elderly men.
While a number of studies have similarly and consistently demonstrated the benefits of good lifestyle habits on health and longevity, none have looked at men who reach this exceptional age. These findings suggest that maintaining good habits even in old age can have an important effect on how long men live and how well they feel and function.
“Our study provides evidence that certain negative health behaviors continue to pose a risk very late in life, and shows the detrimental and long-term effects of smoking, obesity, and inactivity on late-life functioning and well-being,” commented Dr. Laurel Yates of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, lead author of the study. “Based on our findings, the factors closely associated with exceptional life span, good health, and good functional status are strongly related to lifestyle choices.”
(Arch Intern Med 2008;168:284–90)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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