Engaging in Multiple Healthy Behaviours in Midlife Increases Chance of Successful Aging

By Amy Taylor on October 23, 2012

Let’s face it – we are all going to die. But no one wants to suffer for months or years in the hospital bed before eventually dying. Life is too short to spare some for illness. Yes, aging can make people weak, but not sick. This is if we are going to engage in cumulative healthy behaviours, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University College London, UK followed the lives of 5,100 British men and women ages 42-63 and observed their healthy behaviours. After 16 years, participants were classified into two – the normal aging group and the successful aging group. Those in the normal aging group included people who were still alive at the end of 16 years but developed a chronic disease or had mental decline. The second group was consists of individuals who managed to stay healthy and disease-free after the study period.

The participants had their health checks during 1991-1994 and were followed from 2007-2009. Out of 5,100 people, 549 died and 953 were classified as successfully aging, while the rest were classified under the normal aging group. Those who successfully aged were younger than the normal aging people and 82% of them were married as compared with 78% in the second group, and 71% in the deceased group. Also, people from the successfully aging group were more likely to have higher education than the normally aging group and deceased group.  

What makes the successfully aging group different?

The researchers noticed that successful agers tend to combine healthy behaviours and practise them every day. These behaviours include exercising, eating fruits and vegetables, not smoking, and moderately drinking alcohol. According to Dr Séverine Sabia, study co-author from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL, the greater the number of healthy behaviours, the greater the benefit becomes.

In the study, successful aging was defined as maintaining the ability to function well with good mobility, respiratory function, cognitive skills, and mental health, and the absence of chronic diseases such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer at the age of 60 years of older.

As compared to those who did not engage in healthy behaviours, those who practised cumulative healthy behaviours had greater chances of aging successfully. Even though a single healthy practise already has positive effects on one’s health, more is better. Aside from being disease-free, observing a healthy lifestyle especially during midlife makes people reach old age fully functional in an additive manner, the researchers noted.

Their report was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.


Source of this article:

Influence of individual and combined healthy behaviours on successful aging, CMAJ


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