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Never Too Late To Change Your Lifestyle

January 2008 - Research from New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition surveyed scientific literature and found that older adults can achieve significant health improvements with simple and realistic lifestyle changes. Drawing on data gathered and updated as part of peer-reviewed, selected proceedings of the 2005 Harvard College 50th Reunion, the report concluded that risk can be reduced for many common diseases such as obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Richard S. Rivlin, professor of medicine said:

"I think this is an extremely important and positive message. Many elderly people feel that it is too late for them to improve their health, but that is simply not true."

The report concluded that the elderly can reduce health risks and the diseases of ageing by improving body composition (lowering fat and boosting muscle mass), adhering to a low-calorie and low-fat diet high in vegetables and fruits, and undertaking regular planned exercise.

Richard Rivlin commented:

"When measures to combat chronic disease are started in one's 60s and 70s, there are still definite benefits. But older adults must realize that there is no quick fix. They must change their lifestyles."

Specific findings include:

  • Lowering high blood pressure (hypertension) - a major risk for cardiovascular disease - through improved diet and exercise had more dramatic health benefits for the elderly than for any other age group. Control of hypertension could potentially prevent one-fifth of coronary heart disease cases in men, and 30 per cent in women.
  • Older adults adhering to a low-calorie diet with regular exercise had lower rates of cancer. In one study, risk was reduced by nearly 50 per cent.
  • Benefits of weight training include increased ability to burn calories and prevention of osteoporosis.
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements helped slow rates of bone loss and reduced the incidence of fractures.

Richard Rivlin concluded:

"Our study reviews and presents the most up-to-date information showing the influence a healthy lifestyle may have on cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. I also believe that the risk for other diseases, like diabetes and pulmonary disease, can also be avoided through later intervention. But, the earlier, the better."

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