Four health changes can prolong life 14 years

January 25, 2008

People who drink moderately, exercise, quit smoking and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day live on average 14 years longer than people who adopt none of these behaviors, researchers said on Tuesday.
Overwhelming evidence has shown that these things contribute to healthier and longer lives, but the new study actually quantified their combined impact, the British team said.
"These results may provide further support for the idea that even small differences in lifestyle may make a big difference to health in the population and encourage behavior change," the researchers wrote in the journal PLoS Medicine.
Between 1993 and 1997 the researchers questioned 20,000 healthy British men and women about their lifestyles. They also tested every participant's blood to measure vitamin C intake, an indicator of how much fruit and vegetables people ate.
Then they assigned the participants -- aged 45-79 -- a score of between 0 and 4, giving one point for each of the healthy behaviors.
After allowing for age and other factors that could affect the likelihood of dying, the researchers determined that people with a score of 0 were 4-times as likely to have died, particularly from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers, who tracked deaths among the participants until 2006, also said a person with a health score of 0 had the same risk of dying as someone with a health score of 4 who was 14 years older.
The lifestyle change with the biggest benefit was giving up smoking, which led to an 80 percent improvement in health, the study found. This was followed by eating fruits and vegetables.
Moderate drinking and keeping active brought the same benefits, Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues at the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council said.
"Armed with this information, public-health officials should now be in a better position to encourage behavior changes likely to improve the health of middle-aged and older people," the researchers wrote.

Low testosterone tied to broken bones in older men

Men 60 years and older with low levels of testosterone in the blood are at increased risk for fractures due to the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, results of a new study suggest.
Inconsistent findings in previous research into the relationship between testosterone levels and fracture risk may have been caused by the use of tests that are now known to be unreliable, Dr. Christian Meier and colleagues note in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study, testosterone levels were measured using tandem mass spectrometry, a test known for providing accurate results. The current analysis includes 609 men followed for about 6 years following testosterone testing. A total of 149 fractures occurred in 113 men. The researchers at the University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, found that testosterone levels were significantly lower among men who suffered with fractures.
After accounting for major risk factors for fractures, such as a prior fracture, thin bones, and smoking, low testosterone remained a risk factor for fracture. For each standard deviation decrease below normal levels, the risk of fracture rose by 28 percent. For men with particularly low levels, the risk was twice that seen in other men.
"Measurement of...testosterone provides additional clinical information for the assessment of fracture risk in elderly men," Meier and colleagues conclude. The study is published in the January 14, 2008 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.