It’s common for the elderly to have multiple chronic conditions, all of which can impact their ability to live a vibrant, independent lifestyle. While it may not be possible to avoid adverse health conditions in our later years, it appears there are steps we can take now to give ourselves the best possible chance to maintain good health for as long as possible.
In an April 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 32 researchers from around the world collaborated to investigate the association of a healthy lifestyle with years lived free of major chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The data set for the study included 116,043 adults (average age 43.7 year) whom researchers followed for an average of 12.5 years.
At baseline, the investigators looked at four lifestyle factors (smoking, body mass index, physical activity, and alcohol consumption) and assigned a scoring system for each factor (0=poor; 1=intermediate; 2=optimal) for a total score of 8.
During the course of the study, 15% of participants developed at least one chronic disease. The research team’s analysis showed that every one-point increase in an individual’s healthy lifestyle score translated to an increase of .96 chronic disease-free years in men and .89 chronic disease-free years in women.
Compared to individuals with a score of 0, those with a score of 16 benefited from an average of 9.4-9.9 additional chronic disease-free years!
The findings showed that maintaining a healthy weight (BMI or body mass index of ~25), not smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and getting regular exercise dramatically increased the odds of reaching age 70 without chronic disease.
Doctors of chiropractic frequently encourage patients to live a healthy lifestyle because not only can it add years to your life, as this study suggests, it can add life to your years.