WALKING, having a wide circle of friends and drinking only in moderation can add years to life – even if you begin only after the age of 75, Swedish researchers said.
The study is thought to be the first of its kind to examine individual components of a healthy lifestyle and the effect on longevity.
It was found that leading a healthy lifestyle from the age of 75 added five years to a woman's life and six years to a that of a man.
The researchers followed 1800 people from the age of 75 for 18 years, during which time more than nine in 10 died.
Half of them lived beyond 90.
Data on age, sex, occupation, education, lifestyle behaviours, social network and leisure activities were recorded.
The results show that smokers died one year earlier than non-smokers.
People who drank alcohol lived 1.3 years longer than those who never drank, although the quantity was not recorded and those who were defined as having a rich social network lived at least 1.6 years longer than those with a limited or poor social network.
Physical activity such as walking, swimming or gymnastics added two years to life.
Diet was not evaluated.
The researchers took into account any illnesses the participants had when enrolled in the study in an attempt to rule out the effect that chronic diseases may have prevented people from taking physical exercise or engaging in other healthy activities.
However, they could not establish if the effects seen were due to living a healthy lifestyle throughout life as no information on earlier habits was collected.
They also found that combinations of lifestyles that equated to a low-risk profile such as not smoking, being a healthy weight, participation in at least one leisure activity, and a rich or moderate social network added 5.4 years longer than those with a high-risk profile such as unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, no participation in leisure activities, and a limited or poor social network.
Even among those aged 85 years or older and people with chronic conditions, the average age at death was four years higher for those with a low-risk profile compared with those with a high-risk profile.
Lead author, PhD student Debora Rizzuto, of the Ageing Research Centre at the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University, wrote in the British Medical Journal: "The associations between leisure activity, not smoking, and increased survival still existed in those aged 75 years or more, with women's lives prolonged by five years and men's by six years.
"These associations, although attenuated, were still present among people aged 85 or more and in those with chronic conditions." – The Telegraph