Lifestyle habits are important in reducing the risk of late-life disability in older women

A British study shows that being active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle protects against arthritis and other debilitating conditions later in life.

The study was done at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and led by Lois G. Kim.  Kim and her colleagues studied the data collected from British women, ages 60 to 79 years, who filled out surveys as part of the British Women’s Heart and Health study in order to investigate the influence of current lifestyle on their subsequent disability.

The researchers collated data on the study participants’ smoking,  alcohol consumption, eating and exercise habits.  A total of 4,286 the study participants were then followed up for incident cardiovascular disease (CVD), arthritis and locomotor disability over a 7 year period.

The British researchers found that older women who never exercised were nearly twice as likely to get arthritis, and developing difficulties walking;  and also they were more likely to develop heart disease.

Women who smoked currently or in the past were found to develop heart disease at more than twice the rate of those who had never smoked. The study also noted that smoking greatly increases women’s risk of suffering from cardiovascular problems.

Interestingly, the study found no influence on disability from eating fruit, and only a slight benefit from moderate alcohol consumption, but that effect was small enough to be due to chance.

The study’s conclusion was that that among older women “exercise accounts for 9% of incident locomotor disability, 5% of CVD and 4% of arthritis”. 

It is important to note that the new study only found an association between healthy lifestyle and a reduced risk of late-life disability but not a cause and effect (causation).

Arthritis is a debilitating condition and a serious health problem worldwide as it is the main cause of disability among people over fifty-five years of age in industrialised countries. 

Source: Published on line in the Medical Journal Age and Aging.

Posted: Aug 21, 2014