A new study on longevity in women adds further evidence to what seems to be a no-brainer by now: Eating fruits and vegetables and staying active extends your lifespan. Doing either one is helpful, but this research demonstrated that those who do both last the longest.
What made this investigation stand out for me is that it was just about women. Older women in fact. Even though women in the U.S. now outlive men by at least 5 years, few studies are done exclusively on them. But all 713 subjects in this study were women between the ages of 70 and 79.
What Improves Longevity in Women?
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University and published in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It was designed to evaluate the combined benefit of a healthy diet and exercise on life expectancy since other research had shown each to have a positive impact independently of the other.
Level of activity was evaluated using a questionnaire that asked each participant the amount of time they spent doing structured exercise, household and yard chores, and leisure time activities. That information was used to calculate the number of calories being expended by each subject.
- 26% were rated as 'most active' at the outset
- 21% were rated as 'moderately active'
- 53% were rated as 'inactive' or 'sedentary'
The quality of their diets was measured by testing the carotenoid levels in their blood. Carotenoids are compounds found in plants that serve as very good indicators of fruit and vegetable consumption.
All of the participants were then tracked for 5 years.
Impact of Diet & Exercise After 5 Years
12% (out of the total 713) died during the 5 year follow-up
71% lower death rate among those in the 'most active' group compared to those in 'sedentary' group
46% lower death rate in women with highest carotenoid levels compared to lowest
Taken together, the women who were the most physically active and who had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption were eight times more likely to survive the five-year follow-up period than the women with the lowest levels.
Those are good odds to take.
Lead researcher Dr. Emily J. Nickett from the University of Michigan School of Social Work concluded that after smoking cessation, "maintenance of a healthy diet and high levels of physical activity will become the strongest predictors of health and longevity."
What are you doing to control your destiny?