It pays to be active and live a healthy lifestyle even when you’re old, says new Swedish research. Healthy living into your seventies can add up to 5 years to your life.
We all know that lifestyle factors such as smoking, heavy drinking and being overweight is bad for health and shorten life expectancy. But does living a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle still make a difference when already aged 75 or more, wondered researchers of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.
They followed 1,800 individuals aged 75 and older for 18 years, and measured the differences in survival based on modifiable factors such as lifestyle behaviors, leisure activities, and social networks. During the follow-up period 92% of participants died. Half of the participants lived longer than 90 years.
The researchers found that the associations between leisure activity, not smoking, and increased survival still existed in those aged 75 years or more.
People with an active, healthy lifestyle and a rich or moderate social network lived on average 5.4 years longer than those with an unhealthy lifestyle and a limited or poor social network.
Smokers died a year earlier than non-smokers, but people who quit in middle age were almost as long-lived as those who had never smoked.
Of the leisure activities, physical activity was most strongly associated with survival. The average age at death of participants who regularly swam, walked or did gymnastics was two years greater than those who did not.
“Our results suggest that encouraging favorable lifestyle behaviors even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy,” the researchers conclude.
Photo: Victor L. Antunez / Flickr