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While your doctor might tell you this is all a normal part of aging, scientists are now revealing the four lifestyle factors that determine not only the number of years a person can live — but also the number of able-bodied years they can have, free of disability.
The Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) followed over 5,800 adults for 25 years to determine the effect of lifestyle factors late in life on people’s health span (years of life without any difficulty in activities of daily living) and life span (the number of years they lived).
And, four factors stood out as having the most wide reaching impact on both the participant’s length of life and their years of able life.
So, if you or a loved one is reaching the senior years, here’s how the scientists discovered you can stay healthy, active and able longer.
#1 – Walking
The first lifestyle factor that researchers found prevented disability was walking greater distances each day. The more exercise the people in the study got, the longer they lived and the less likely they were to be disabled.
In fact, higher energy expenditure or the more calories they burned, was associated with more years of able life and for every 25 blocks walked per week the participants gained 0.5 percentage points more years of active life.
#2 – Diet
According to the scientists in the study, what you eat is also vital to preventing disability. A good quality diet with the necessary protein you need to stay strong is a must if you want to remain active and independent and even live longer.
The study showed that participants with the worst diets lived 1.5 fewer years overall and had 1.5 fewer years of active life.
#3 – Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight was the third factor the researchers discovered prevented disability. You want to be fit and trim but not underweight.
In the study, underweight participants had three fewer years of life than those at a healthy weight while participants who were obese had a significantly lower proportion of able years (7.3% fewer) than those with a normal body mass index.
#4 – Smoking
We all know that smoking is bad for you but this study proved that smoking can not only speed up your death but also leave you disabled.
In the study, smoking was associated with 3.5 fewer years of life and 3.1 fewer years of active life. Even former smokers had 1.3 fewer years of life and 1.2 fewer years of active life than those who had never smoked.
In other words, the study showed that the more you walk and the better quality of diet you eat gives you protection from disability while smoking and not maintaining a healthy weight leads to health problems that could land you in a nursing home.
And, as Dr. Anne Newman, senior author of the study said, “By improving lifestyle, we can postpone death, but even more so, we can postpone disability. This clearly demonstrates the value of investing in a healthy lifestyle.”
So, start investing in a healthy lifestyle now to prevent disability, maintain your independence and stay healthy longer.
- Can a Healthy Lifestyle Compress the Disabled Period in Older Adults? — Wiley Online Library
- Lifestyle factors may affect how long individuals live free of disability — ScienceDaily