A Healthy Lifestyle Delays Disability in Older Adults
Researchers who studied over 3,000 men and women over the age of 60 learned that people who practiced at least one of four healthy behaviors were less likely to become disabled. The more healthy behaviors people practiced, the less likely they were to become disabled.
New Research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
The researchers wanted to find out whether older adults who performed a combination of common healthy behaviors were less likely to become disabled as they age. The healthy behaviors they considered were regular exercise, not smoking, light to moderate drinking (at most, having a drink every other day), and sleeping between six to eight hours a night.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the Taiwan Bureau of Health Promotion, and the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan.
The researchers studied 1,940 men and 1,247 women aged 60 and older who lived in Taiwan. At the start of the study, nearly 25% of the participants had a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes or stroke. When the study began in 1989, all of the participants were able to walk a moderate distance and bathe themselves. The participants were interviewed at the beginning of the study and again every three years until 2003.
If a participant reported that he or she had become unable to walk or bathe, he or she was considered disabled.
At the end of the study, the researchers learned that the non-smokers greatly reduced their risk for becoming disabled. What's more, participants who drank alcohol in moderation had a much lower risk of becoming disabled than people who never drank. To a lesser degree, not exercising, or sleeping less than five or more than nine hours a night also increased the risks of becoming disabled.
What Should I Do?
According to the researchers, "A program for improving physical functioning and quality of life in later life can be designed for anyone to include these healthy behaviors." They also noted that the effect of these four healthy behaviors should be promoted to encourage older people to perform them.
This study is from the full report titled, "Healthy Behaviors and Onset of Functional Disability in Older Adults: Results of a National Longitudinal Study." It is in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The report is authored by Wen-Chun Liao, RN, PhD; Chi-Rong Li, PhD; Yi-Chin Lin, RD, PhD; Cheng-Ching Wang, RN, PhD; Yu-Ju Chen, RN, MS; Chi-Hua Yen, MD, MS; Hui-Sheng Lin, PhD, and Meng-Chih Lee*, MD, PhD, MPH. *Corresponding author (firstname.lastname@example.org)