redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Even as we get older, participating in healthy activities and avoiding unhealthy ones can add years to our lives, a team of Swedish researchers report in a recently-published population study.
The research, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Friday, followed 1,810 adults at least 75 years of age between the years of 1987 and 2005. They discovered that including positive lifestyle behaviors such as exercise and avoiding negative ones such as smoking could add five years to a woman’s life and six years to a man’s.
“During follow-up 1661 (91.8%) participants died,” the authors wrote in the abstract portion of their research. “Half of the participants lived longer than 90 years. Half of the current smokers died 1.0 year (95% confidence interval 0.0 to 1.9 years) earlier than non-smokers. Of the leisure activities, physical activity was most strongly associated with survival; the median age at death of participants who regularly swam, walked, or did gymnastics was 2.0 years (0.7 to 3.3 years) greater than those who did not.”
“The median survival of people with a low risk profile (healthy lifestyle behaviors, participation in at least one leisure activity, and a rich or moderate social network) was 5.4 years longer than those with a high risk profile (unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, no participation in leisure activities, and a limited or poor social network),” they added. “Even among the oldest old (85 years or older) and people with chronic conditions, the median age at death was four years higher for those with a low risk profile compared with those with a high risk profile.”
According to a prepared statement, the authors say that the paper is the first to directly provide information addressing differences in longevity due to multiple modifiable factors, including weight, tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Those most likely to survive longer tended to be female, highly-educated, more likely to participate in leisure activities, more likely to have a strong social network and, of course, more likely to have made healthy lifestyle choices.
The findings held true even for those who were over the age of 85 and those who had chronic illnesses, who lived an average of four-years longer if they had a low health-risk profile, the researchers said, according to the BMJ statement. The scientists, who hail from the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm University, and the Stockholm Gerontology Research Center, said that their findings suggest that making healthy lifestyle choices can enhance life expectancy, even in a person’s twilight years.