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Exercise and healthy eating make a difference even later in life

Portrait of a senior woman holding a scale and apple and with a towel draped around her neck. (stock image_ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Women in their 70s had a longer life expectancy when they exercised and regularly ate fruits and vegetables, a new University of Michigan study found.

"This is the first study to show that the combination of a healthy diet and greater physical activity predict greater survival and that the combination of both positive factors confers lower mortality risk than either factor alone," said Emily Nicklett, U-M assistant professor of social work.

Nicklett and researchers at The Johns Hopkins University studied the results from 713 women ages 70 to 79 years who participated in the Women's Health and Aging Studies.

Participants completed a questionnaire about their physical activity during the past two weeks. Researchers also measured carotenoids in blood samples to determine the effects of eating fruits and vegetables on participants. Carotenoids provide antioxidants to protect against inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

Nearly 53 percent of the women (377) who completed the survey did not exercise, while 26 percent (189) were in the most active group. The remaining 147 women were moderately active.

During the time before the five-year follow-up, 82 participants (11.5 percent) died. Women with low levels of exercise and eating produce were nearly eight times more likely to die before those who had higher levels of physical activity and healthy eating, the research indicated.

Nicklett said that programs and policies to promote longevity should include interventions to improve nutrition and physical activity for older adults.

The findings appeared in the recent issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

 

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