By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (December 7, 2006)—A 40-year-long study has identified several key factors that can help men live longer. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that growing old doesn’t have to mean living with disability or disease.
While people are living longer lives, many wonder how they can make the most of the golden years. To shed some light on this, the authors of the new study aimed to “identify risk factors for healthy survival that are easily measured…and may be modifiable.”
More than 5,800 Japanese American men took part in the Honolulu Heart Program/Honolulu Asia Aging Study, starting when they were about age 54. To see how “well” the men aged, physical fitness, cognitive function, and the incidence of six of the most common age-related chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and Parkinson’s disease) were assessed.
Health risk factors
The researchers identified the following risk factors:
• Being overweight
• Consuming excessive alcohol
• High levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, and uric acid
• Lower education (did not graduate from high school)
• Poor physical fitness
• High blood pressure
• High hematocrit (a measure of the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood that can increase the chance of excessive blood clotting)
• Being unmarried
What you can do
Men who lived to age 85 without chronic disease or physical or cognitive impairment were considered “exceptional survivors.” Only 11% fit this category; fortunately, the lifestyle habits that helped them reach this age in good health are attainable by most people. Here are the steps men can take to increase their chances of a long, healthy life:
• Get regular exercise—Men in better physical condition live longer, healthier lives.
• Maintain a healthy weight—Leaner body mass is associated with longevity and also helps control blood sugar levels and keep blood pressure in check.
• Keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range—Men with better blood sugar control fare better when it comes to living longer. To improve blood sugar regulation, avoid being overweight, exercise regularly, and steer clear of processed foods.
• Don’t smoke—Smoking elevates blood pressure, raises your risk of heart disease, and greatly increases the chance that you’ll get cancer or lung disease.
• Don’t drink too much alcohol—Men who drink three or more alcoholic beverages per day are less likely to reach old age in good health.
• Further your education—Men with more education are likelier to live longer, healthier lives.
The authors commented, “For all age outcome categories, the probability of survival declines approximately linearly as the number of risk factors increases.” Men with no risk factors have a 55% chance of living healthfully to age 85, whereas those with six or more risk factors have less than a 10% chance. By adopting some healthy lifestyle choices, you can expect to add some quality to your years.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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