Do This When You're Young, Live to 90
The secret to a long life may be maintaining a healthy weight in your young adult years and staying physically active in later years--and this holds true even if you suffer from diabetes, heart disease, or cancer as a senior citizen.
Reuters reports that researchers from the University of California, Irvine have determined that elderly people who reported weighing the least at age 21 and who participated regularly in physical exercise as senior citizens were the most likely to eventually celebrate their 90th birthday.
While we've all read scads of reports on how regular exercise and a low body mass index--that's the measure of weight in relation to height--are the keys to better health when we're young and middle-aged, there hasn't been much research into whether this benefits older adults, especially those in their tenth decade of life.
But what's good for the young is also good for the elderly. "These findings are exciting, because they suggest ways an individual can take control and extend his or her own life," Dr. Maria M. Corrada told Reuters. She, along with Annlia Paganini-Hill and Claudia H. Kawas, co-authored the study.
The 20-year research project included more than 10,000 adults who were on average 75 years old when the study began. They answered questions about their height, weight, weight at age 21, body mass index, and their level of outdoor exercise. At the end of the study, more than 6,700 of the participants had died before reaching age 90, but 3,636 lived to 90 or older, reports Reuters.
The results: Those who reported weighing the most at age 21 were also the most likely to die before 90. The risk of dying before 90 increased with every five-pound increase in weight at 21 years of age. "Being overweight in young adulthood is detrimental to survival to very old age," Corrada told Reuters. In addition, the elderly participants who had the highest body mass indices in their golden years were also more likely to die before 90, compared with those who had a lower BMI. Those seniors who exercised at least 30 minutes a day were 24 percent to 31 percent less likely to die before age 90, compared with those who exercised less than 30 minutes daily or not at all. "Although exercise is known to help maintain ideal weight, exercise increased the chance of survival beyond its effect on weight and body mass," Corrada told Reuters.
And here's the amazing part: These findings about healthy weight and exercise contributing to longevity held true even when the elderly participants suffered from life-threatening health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, and cancer.
The findings were presented during the 55th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Honolulu.