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16-12-2012 | General practice | Article

Healthy behavior at middle age is critical to 'successful' aging

Abstract

Free abstract

medwireNews: Observing a combination of healthy behaviors during middle age, including moderate exercise and alcohol intake, and not smoking, can significantly improve the chances of aging successfully, study findings show.

The chances of having good mental health, good cognitive, physical and respiratory function, and being disease- and disability-free at the age of 60 years and older is increased significantly if these healthy behaviors are observed, in addition to eating fruits and vegetables daily, indicate the results.

"Our results should motivate lifestyle changes that not only reduce mortality and morbidity, but also improve quality of life at older ages," suggest Séverine Sabia (University College London, UK) and colleagues in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Their findings emerge from data for 5100 British civil servants who were examined between the ages of 35-55 years in 1985 to 1988, and who were aged at least 60 years at their final follow up for the Whitehall II cohort study during 2008 to 2009.

In all, 549 participants had died by the final follow up, while 953 met the criteria for successful aging. This latter group was younger, more likely to be married, and more likely to have a university degree or higher than their counterparts who aged "normally," ie, did not fit the successful aging criteria.

Compared with their counterparts who engaged in no healthy behaviors (4.9%), those who engaged in all four behaviors (11.8%) were 3.3 times more likely to age successfully. Indeed, the association between these behaviors and healthy aging was linear, remark the authors, with an odds ratio per additional healthy behavior of 1.33.

Regarding specific behaviors, participants who had never smoked were 1.3 times more likely to meet the successful aging criteria than their peers who smoked or were former smokers, and those who drank moderate amounts of alcohol were 1.31 times more likely to age successfully than those who drank none or who drank heavily.

Being physically active and eating fruits and vegetables every day were also associated with successful aging, increased the odds by 1.45 and 1.35 compared with partaking in neither of these behaviors.

"Multiple healthy behaviors appear to increase the chance of reaching old age disease-free and fully functioning in an additive manner," conclude Sabia et al.

By Sarah Guy, medwireNews Reporter

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