If you are 60 you can triple your chances of reaching 71 if your lifestyle includes the following six criteria: you don’t smoke, you eat healthily, you take exercise regularly, you sleep well, you are not sedentary all day and you have daily contact with friends. Epidemiologists at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid write about this in BMC Medicine.
The Spaniards base their conclusions on a study in which they followed 3465 compatriots from 2000/1 to 2011. At the start of the study, when all participants were 60 or older, the researchers recorded the lifestyle of their subjects.
They started by looking at three lifestyle factors of which epidemiologists know that these are jointly cacapable of preventing about half of the deaths that occur: not smoking, enough physical activity and a healthy diet.
The researchers’ description of a healthy diet was one consisting of relatively high proportions of fruit, vegetables, healthy vegetable fats, whole grain products and fish. Animal fats and red and processed meat made a diet less healthy.
The epidemiologists also looked at three lifestyle factors that have only recently emerged as being relevant in epidemiology. Sleep is one of these factors. Studies have shown that people who sleep 7-8 hours a day live longer than people who sleep either noticeably shorter or even longer.
The two other less traditional lifestyle factors were sitting and contact with friends. Recent studies have shown that people who spend less than eight hours a day sitting down live longer than people who sit for longer than eight hours, and people who have daily contact with friends live longer than people who don’t.
The table below shows the effects of each of the six lifestyle factors alone. Large amounts of physical exercise and not smoking weighed heaviest. Both of these factors reduced the mortality risk by about 35 percent.
Below left you can see that the combination of the three traditional healthy lifestyle factors halved the mortality risk over the 11 years that the study lasted. The combination of the three non-traditional lifestyle factors reduced the mortality risk by a third.
The combination of all six healthy lifestyle factors reduced the mortality risk by a factor five.
The figure above shows what this means in terms of survival chances. Of the over-sixties who had one or none healthy lifestyle factors, thirty percent were still alive after 11 years. Of the over-sixties who had all six healthy lifestyle factors, eighty percent were still alive after 11 years.
“These results are of particular relevance for countries like Spain, where life expectancy in the population is very long, both at birth and at age 60”, the researchers write. “They suggest that longevity can be further increased when older adults adopt a healthy lifestyle.”
Combined impact of traditional and non-traditional health behaviors on mortality: a national prospective cohort study in Spanish older adults.
Data on the combined effect of lifestyles on mortality in older people have generally been collected from highly selected populations and have been limited to traditional health behaviors. In this study, we examined the combined impact of three traditional (smoking, physical activity and diet) and three non-traditional health behaviors (sleep duration, sedentary time and social interaction) on mortality among older adults.
A cohort of 3,465 individuals, representative of the Spanish population aged ?60 years, was established in 2000/2001 and followed-up prospectively through 2011. At baseline, the following positive behaviors were self-reported: never smoking or quitting tobacco >15 years, being very or moderately physically active, having a healthy diet score ? median in the cohort, sleeping 7 to 8 h/d, spending <8 h/d in sitting time, and seeing friends daily. Analyses were performed with Cox regression and adjusted for the main confounders.
During an average nine-year follow-up, 1,244 persons died. Hazard ratios (95% confidence interval) for all-cause mortality among participants with two, three, four, five and six compared to those with zero to one positive behaviors were, respectively, 0.63 (0.46 to 0.85), 0.41 (0.31 to 0.55), 0.32 (0.24 to 0.42), 0.26 (0.20 to 0.35) and 0.20 (0.15 to 0.28) (P for trend <0.001). The results were similar regardless of age, sex and health status at baseline. Those with six vs. zero to one positive health behaviors had an all-cause mortality risk equivalent to being 14 years younger. Adding the three non-traditional to the four traditional behaviors improved the model fit (likelihood ratio test, P <0.001) and the accuracy of mortality prediction (c-statistic: + 0.0031, P = 0.040).
Adherence to some traditional and non-traditional health behaviors may substantially reduce mortality risk in older adults.
PMID: 23433432 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] PMCID: PMC3621845