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Healthy Living in Middle Age Really Pays Off in Senior Years

WEDNESDAY, March 31, 2021 -- Live well, live longer.

New research offers more evidence that the mantra rings true: People who got regular exercise and ate a healthy diet in middle age had a reduced risk of serious health problems as seniors.

"Health care professionals could use these findings to further promote and emphasize to their patients the benefits of a healthy diet and a regular exercise schedule to avoid the development of numerous chronic health conditions in the present and in later life," said study author Vanessa Xanthakis, an assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics in the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine.

Her team analyzed long-term data from nearly 2,400 Americans in a large ongoing U.S. health study to determine how closely they followed U.S. government dietary guidelines and physical activity guidelines. Physical activity guideline advocate at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, such as walking or swimming.

The adults in the study were an average age of 47 when assessed between 2008 and 2011, and in their senior years when assessed in 2016-2019.

In middle age, 28% of the adults followed both the physical activity and dietary guidelines, while 47% followed only one of the guidelines.

Adhering to the physical activity and dietary guidelines in middle age was associated with a lower chance of developing the metabolic syndrome and other serious health conditions later in life, according to the study published March 31 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"The earlier people make these lifestyle changes, the more likely they will be to lower their risk of cardiovascular-associated diseases later in life," Xanthakis said in a journal news release.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health conditions -- including excess fat around the waist, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels -- that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

The risk of metabolic syndrome was 51% lower among those who followed the physical activity recommendations alone, 33% lower in those who followed the dietary guidelines alone, and 65% lower in those who followed both guidelines.

All of the adults in the study were white, so the findings can't be generalized to other racial/ethnic groups, and further studies that include a range of racial/ethnic groups are needed, the researchers said.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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