How to Live a Long Healthy Life (for Men only)

The New York Times had an excellent article looking at a recent study that suggests that the secret to living past 90 may be found in five simple behaviors. The study, performed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston followed 2300 healthy men for 25 years. The average age at the beginning was 72. By the end of the study, 970 men had survived into their 90’s.

The key behaviors that were associated with longevity were not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure, getting regular exercise, and preventing diabetes.

The results?

“There was no less chronic illness among survivors than among those who died before 90. But after controlling for other variables, smokers had double the risk of death before 90 compared with nonsmokers, those with diabetes increased their risk of death by 86 percent, obese men by 44 percent, and those with high blood pressure by 28 percent. Compared with men who never exercised, those who did reduced their risk of death by 20 percent to 30 percent, depending on how often and how vigorously they worked out.”

So there you have it. First stop smoking, or don’t start. Second, control your weight and eating patterns to avoid Type 2 diabetes. Third, lose weight so that you are not obese. Control your blood pressure, and exercise, and you’ve got longevity nailed. What is interesting is that although smoking is a completely independent risk factor, the other four are highly related to something called Syndrome X, a metabolic syndrome that is associated with high levels of blood sugar and insulin production, which leads to weight gain, hypertension, and pre-diabetes. Exercise leads to weight loss, and independently reduces the tendency to Syndrome X.And it’s not too late. Since the study only looked at these five behaviors after age 72, even change that occurs late in life can greatly extend and improve life.

Unfortunately, since the study only included men, we can’t really generalize the results to women, but it is likely that the same principles apply.

And now, I have to go take a swim…

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