Forever Young

As a baby boomer moving through middle age into the unspeakable age that follows “middle,” I was encouraged to read an article in the British Medical Journal that states that for seniors and super seniors, healthy behaviors that include regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining a normal Body Mass Index, and having a rich or moderate social network led to significant increases in longevity. From the study:

“Even after age 75 lifestyle behaviours such as not smoking and physical activity are associated with longer survival,” the study authors write. “A low risk profile can add five years to women’s lives and six years to men’s. These associations, although attenuated, were also present among the oldest old (≥85 years) and in people with chronic conditions.”

This study affirms the benefits of lifestyle and healthy behaviors for the hundreds of millions of people who are in or are entering their golden years in the United States and across the industrialized world. With these “prescriptions” or interventions, there is no need for elaborate quality-adjusted life year studies or comparative-effectiveness research to justify hundred-thousand-dollar sickness care interventions! The ROI is compelling.

Shaping or modifying our own personal behaviors or effecting positive health behaviors in others, whether as a health plan, an employer, or as clinicians, is no piece of cake but is well worth the effort.

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP, is associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.