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Influence of individual and combined healthy behaviours on successful aging

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in October examined the extent to which healthy behaviours in midlife, separately and in combination, predict successful aging. The findings echo many studies over the years that demonstrate that those, especially older adults, who drink moderately, exercise lightly, refrain from smoking  and eat a healthy diet live longer and healthier lives than those who do not adopt these ‘heart healthy’ habits.

The researchers used a prospective cohort design involving 5100 men and women aged 42–63 years. Participants were free of cancer, coronary artery disease and stroke when their health behaviours were assessed in 1991–1994 as part of the Whitehall II study.  Healthy behaviours were defined as: never smoking, moderate alcohol consumption (1–14 units/wk for women; 1–21 units/wk for men), physical activity (≥ 2.5 h/wk moderate physical activity or ≥ 1 h/wk vigorous physical activity), and eating fruits and vegetables daily.

Successful aging, measured over a median 16.3-year follow-up, was defined as good cognitive, physical, respiratory and cardiovascular functioning, in addition to the absence of disability, mental health problems and chronic disease (coronary artery disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes).

At the end of follow-up, 549 participants had died and 953 qualified as aging successfully. Compared with participants who engaged in no healthy behaviours, participants engaging in all 4 healthy behaviours had 3.3 times greater odds of successful aging (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.1–5.1). The association with successful aging was linear, with the odds ratio (OR) per increment of healthy behaviour being 1.3 (95% CI 1.2–1.4; population-attributable risk for 1–4 v. 0 healthy behaviours 47%).

Source: Influence of individual and combined healthy behaviours on successful aging. Séverine Sabia, Archana Singh-Manoux, Gareth Hagger-Johnson, Emmanuelle Cambois, Eric J. Brunner, Mika Kivimaki. CMAJ October 22, 2012 cmaj.121080.

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