Factors Affecting Life Expectancy for Older Adults Studied

Physical activity most strongly linked with increased survival in adults aged 75 years and older

FRIDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Even for adults aged 75 years and older, keeping up a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity and not smoking, is associated with increased life expectancy, according to a study published online Aug. 30 in BMJ.

Debora Rizzuto, from the Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University, and colleagues examined the modifiable factors that are associated with longevity in a population-based cohort study involving 1,810 adults aged 75 or older. Participants were followed up for 18 years.

The researchers found that 91.8 percent of participants died during follow-up and that half the participants lived longer than 90 years. Compared with non-smokers, half of the current smokers died 1.0 year earlier. Physical activity was the leisure activity that correlated most strongly with survival. For participants who regularly walked, swam, or did gymnastics, the median age at death was 2.0 years greater than those who did not engage in physical activity. Individuals with a low-risk profile (healthy lifestyle behavior, participation in at least one leisure activity, rich or moderate social network) had a 5.4-year longer median survival than those with a high-risk profile. Even for the oldest old (aged 85 years or older), a low-risk profile was linked with a four-year higher median age of death than a high-risk profile.

"The associations between leisure activity, not smoking, and increased survival still existed in those aged 75 years or more," the authors write. "Our results suggest that encouraging favorable lifestyle behaviors even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy, probably by reducing morbidity."

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