Phrases and proverbs about the importance of maintaining good health span the ages. Many emphasize how health is linked to happiness and the opportunity to live a fulfilling and enjoyable life. A study was published this month in age and aging The Japan Collaborate Cohort (JACC) Study Group at Osaka University evaluated the impact of modifying lifestyle behaviors on life expectancy from middle age onward. The researchers found that adopting five or more healthy lifestyle behaviors increases life expectancy even for individuals over the age of 80 and, importantly, also for those with chronic diseases.
Life span depends on social factors such as socioeconomic status, policy factors such as assistance with access to health care, and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. The current study used a baseline survey from the JACC Study, a large research project of 49,021 individuals conducted from 1988 to 1990 in 45 regions in Japan. The aim was to increase knowledge about the factors that contribute to death from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Thus, the questionnaire included components such as diet, exercise, alcohol intake, smoking status, sleep duration and body mass index. Points were given for each healthy behavior and the effect of modifying these lifestyle behaviors on life expectancy was assessed.
The study ran until December 2009, at which time 8,966 individuals had died. The study’s lead author, Dr. Ryoto Sakaniwa, said, “The results were very clear. A greater number of modified healthy behaviors was directly associated with longevity for both men and women.” The lifetime gains were highest in reducing alcohol intake, not smoking, losing weight, and increasing sleep, adding up to 6 years of age for healthy 40-year-olds.
This feature was prominent even among older individuals (80 years or older) and those with one or more major comorbidities including cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, and at every stage of life from middle age onwards. Senior author Professor Hiroyasu Izu says: “This is a particularly important finding given that the prevalence of chronic disease has increased globally and is a leading cause of death in the elderly.” This is one of the first studies to measure the effect of improvements on health behavior among older individuals in a country with a life expectancy of approximately 85 years.
The finding that lifestyle improvements have a positive impact on health despite chronic health conditions and aging is an empowering one, particularly given the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and longer lifespans. The results of this study will contribute to the design of future health care settings, public health approaches, and policies that work in partnership with patients to promote healthy lifestyle choices.
Healthy habits in middle age are linked to a longer disease-free life
The effect of adopting a healthy, adjustable lifestyle on lifespan gains from middle-aged to older adults, age and aging (2022). doi: 10.1093/aging/afac080
Presented by Osaka University
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