Five steps to a long life

By Tom Fortner • Published: May 16th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Most of us have read stories about people who reach the ripe old age of one-hundred years or more. These accounts almost always ask the obligatory question: How did you manage to live so long?

Invariably, good genes have a lot to do with it. On the other hand, descriptions of so-called environmental influences tend to cover the waterfront, from a particular dietary item, to religious faith, to a daily nip of cooking sherry.

Now, researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital have taken a more scientific approach to measuring the effect of those environmental factors. Looking at a large sample of elderly men, they’ve come up with a list of five behaviors associated with living long and living well into old age.

The factors, listed in descending order of risk avoided, include not smoking, avoiding diabetes, controlling weight and blood pressure and getting regular exercise.

The researchers followed twenty-three-hundred healthy men whose average age was seventy-two at the beginning of the study. Nearly a quarter of a century later, roughly four out of ten had survived into their nineties.

Generally speaking, the men were in good health and functionally independent. But that’s not to say they didn’t have health issues. A companion study suggests many had long-term chronic disease but were able to live well and with minimal assistance despite their illness.

The study showed no association between the daily nip and longevity… but here’s a toast to the five behaviors that were linked to long life.