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Healthy lifestyle - longer life with less disability towards the end

The last years of a person's life are often downhill in terms of quality. Age-related disabilities make everyday activities difficult or even impossible. According to an epidemiological study published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, a healthy lifestyle extends life expectancy and also reduces the number of less good years at the end.

The researchers used data that had been gathered from 5248 elderly Americans for the Cardiovascular Health Study. The researchers on that project followed a large group of over 65s for twenty-five years. They recorded the number of years that the participants functioned well, and the number of years during which everyday activities became no longer possible due to all sorts of complaints.

At the start of the study the researchers recorded details of the participants’ lifestyle. They knew how much exercise the participants had, their weight, whether they ate healthily, whether they smoked and how much alcohol they drank. The researchers divided the participants into two groups on the basis of this information: one group of those with a healthy lifestyle and one group of those with an unhealthy lifestyle.

The researchers used statistical techniques to filter out the effects of socio-economic factors such as income and education.

The participants with a healthy lifestyle lived longer than those with an unhealthy lifestyle. And although the participants with a healthy lifestyle lived longer, they had a shorter period of disability at the end of their life.

Healthy lifestyle - longer life with less disability towards the end

"In older adults, the mean duration of the disabled period is approximately 2.9 years for men and 4.5 years for women," the researchers wrote. "Lifestyle factors may compress or expand this period, independent of their effect on life expectancy."

"Although the increasing obesity levels in this age group can herald a disability epidemic, the promotion of healthy lifestyle factors might reduce the public health burden due to disability as more adults reach old age."

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016 Oct;64(10):1952-61.

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