4 September 2012
Be active and live longer
It is a widely assumed that being overweight, a smoker or heavy drinker can shorten life expectancy but it isn’t clear by how much. Sweden’s Karolinska Institute studied the lifestyles of 1,810 people over the age of 75 for 18 years. They found that men with the healthiest lifestyles lived 6 years longer and women lived an extra 5 years.
They found that people who smoked died a year earlier, but surprisingly those who quit in middle age lived as long as those who had never smoked. This shows that it is never too late to start being healthy. It was also discovered that those who took part in swimming, walking or gymnastics increased their life expectancy by about 2 years while those who had a rich social life lived 18 months longer.
By adopting the healthiest lifestyles the overall life expectancy of men could increase by as much as 6 years and 5 years for women.
However, many of the lifestyle choices had been made before the age of 75 so it is not clear how much difference changes can make in older age.
The report’s authors said, “Our results suggest that encouraging favourable lifestyle behaviours even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy.”
Professor of public health at King’s College London, Alan Maryon-Davis, said, “These results should put an extra spring in the step of everyone in later life. They provide good evidence that even in your seventies it’s not too late to gain an extra few years to enjoy life by keeping active, living healthily and being involved in family and community.”
Meanwhile Michelle Mitchell, from the charity Age UK, said, “It’snever too early and never too late to make those small changes that can make a big difference.”