Short course

Longevity: Habits may extend life only so much.

Written by Agencies | Published:August 13, 2011 12:45 am

Longevity: Habits may extend life only so much

THE eating,drinking and exercise habits of extremely old but healthy people differ little from those of the rest of us,a study has found. Gerontologists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine recruited 477 Ashkenazi Jews (aged 95 to 112) who were living independently. The researchers took blood samples,did physical examinations and obtained personal and medical histories from each participant. Then they compared them with 1,374 non-Hispanic white adults,ages 65 to 74,from general population.

For both men and women,consumption of alcohol,amount of physical activity and the percentage of people on low-calorie or low-salt diets were almost identical in the two groups.

Long-lived men were less likely to be obese than their younger counterparts,although no less likely to be overweight. The oldest women were more likely to be overweight and less likely to be obese. More men among the oldest were nonsmokers,but smoking habits were not significantly different among the women.

Does this mean that it all depends on genes,and we might as well eat,drink and be merry? No,according to the senior author,Dr Nir Barzilai,director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

“For most of us who do not have genes for longevity,” he said,“if you follow the healthy lifestyle the medical community has put forth,you are much more likely to live past 80.”

The study was published online in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Swap meat for nuts to lower diabetes risk

Eating red meat,and in particular processed red meat like bacon and hot dogs,raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes. But replacing just one serving a day with nuts or low-fat dairy can lower the risk,according to a study by Harvard researchers.

The findings come from a broad analysis of three groups of male and female health professionals,totalling nearly 300,000 people aged 25 to 75. The researchers looked at their eating and health habits dating to 1976. The subjects answered detailed questions about their diets and medical history and provided updated information every two years.

Over all,the authors found that eating a daily serving of unprocessed red meat,equivalent to a 100-gram cut of steak,was enough to raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 19 per cent. Eating just 50 grams a day of processed meat increased the risk 51 percent.

In the current study,published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,the

researchers did find that people who ate more red meat were more likely to smoke and avoid physical activity. They also tended to eat more calories over all and had higher BMI’s. But even after adjusting for all of those factors,an elevated risk involving red meat intake and Type 2 diabetes remained.

Dr Frank Hu,a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and an author of the study,said the simple fact that people who eat a lot of red meat tend to gain more weight was also a factor,since obesity and Type 2 diabetes are intertwined.

Common sleep problem raises dementia risk

Older women who have sleep apnea may be more likely to develop memory problems and dementia,according to a new study. Dr Kristine Yaffe of the University of California,San Francisco and colleagues gave an overnight sleep apnea test to 298 women without dementia,who were an average of 82 years old. The test looks for changes in breathing and oxygen flow during the night,as well as for the short,frequent breaks in sleep that are signs of sleep apnea.

Just over a third of the women had sleep apnea — which is especially common in older,overweight people.

About five years later,the researchers brought those same women in for a set of thinking and memory tests,and doctors evaluated any of the women who showed signs of memory decline. In total,a little over a third (36 per cent) of the women were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

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