By Sarah Guy, medwireNews Reporter
Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle, to include physical exercise and leisure and social activities, prolongs life even among the elderly, show results of a Swedish study involving individuals aged 75 years and over.
Compared with their counterparts with a high-risk lifestyle that involved none of these elements, low-risk individuals lived an average 5 years longer, and this difference remained even when analysis was restricted to participants aged 85 years and above.
The findings are independent of health status, note the researchers in the BMJ, including having multimorbidities.
"Our results suggest that encouraging favorable lifestyle behaviors even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy, probably by reducing mortality," say Debora Rizzuto (Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University) and colleagues.
The team used data gathered in October 1987 during face-to-face interviews with 1810 individuals living in the Kungsholmen district of central Stockholm, which included education level, smoking and alcohol status and consumption, and the type and frequency of any mental, social, and productive activities such as reading, traveling, and gardening, respectively, if any.
After 18 years of follow up, 8.2% of participants were still alive, and overall, 50.0% had survived until 90 years of age, or older.
The researchers report that individuals of normal weight (body mass index [BMI] 20-25) and those who had never smoked lived a respective 1.1 and 1.3 years longer than those who were underweight (BMI <20) and who were current smokers.
Of all leisure activities, physical activity, such as swimming, walking, and gymnastics, was associated with the largest difference in survival, adding a median 2.3 years to the lives of participants compared with no physical activity.
The team also reports that social network and interaction had a significant effect on longevity after adjustment for multiple potential confounding factors including morbidities.
Specifically, having a rich social network - defined as being married, living with someone, having and seeing children and relatives or friends daily or weekly and being happy with that level of contact - was associated with living a significant 2.7 years longer than having a limited or poor social network with only two, or one or none of these elements, respectively.
"To the best of our knowledge this is the first study that directly provides information about differences in longevity according to several modifiable factors," conclude Rizzuto et al.
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