Men who maintain their healthy habits until middle age and beyond are most likely to make it to a ripe old age, a new study says.
More than half of men in their early 70s with healthy habits lived until the age 90, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found. The men with the greatest longevity were not obese, exercised two to four times a week, did not have diabetes or high blood pressure and did not smoke.
The study is published in the February 11th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Altogether 2,357 men born before the year 1915 participated. Among the group, 970 lived until the age of 90.
For those men who eventually got a chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease or stroke, the later the onset, the longer the life. And the rates of illnesses such as cancer were lower among those who lived to age 90.
"Modifiable healthy behaviors during early elderly years ... are associated not only with enhanced life span in men but also with good health and function during older age," the researchers said.
Alcohol intake did not seem to predict survival.
On the other hand, men with the five factors for an unhealthy life -- overweight smokers with high blood pressure and diabetes who do not exercise -- you have only a four percent chance of making it to age 90.
The bottom line - modifying behaviors to a healthy lifestyle effects your lifespan and quality of your life even if you add healthy behaviors in the early elderly years.
The findings are notable because there is sparse information on the long lives of men since women actually make up about three-quarters of the elderly.
"I would not use the word surprising. I think it's reassuring" says. Dr. Laurel Yates.
In a separate study in the same journal finds that many who live to age 100, lived with a disability or a disease for 15 years or so before they became centenarians. It is the relative late-onset of disease and not the disease itself that predicts a longer life.
One would have guessed that to get to extreme old age, you'd have to avoid or delay disease," said study co-author Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center. "But some very old people with significant illness still live independently. And the message here is that one shouldn't jump to the conclusion that disease equals disability."
The findings are applicable to the millions of baby boomers beginning to enter the early elderly years. Those over the age of 85 are already the fastest growing segment of the American population.
As of 2000 there were 50,000 100 year olds, By the year 2050, there are predicted to be 834,000 American centenarians. #