It’s never too late to take steps toward improving your health, based on a recent study that links a healthy lifestyle to reduced cardiovascular risk in elderly adults.
Known as the Three Cities Study, this study looked at lifestyle and cardiovascular outcomes in French elderly adults. The goal was to see whether a healthy lifestyle—marked by staying active, eating healthy and avoiding conditions like high blood pressure—still provides health benefits in old age.
The study included nearly 7,400 elderly adults aged 65 years or older from three French cities including Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier. Participants completed medical exams and health questionnaires at the start of the study and were followed for up to 12 years for key outcomes like heart attack, stroke and death.
The results, which were recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, confirm the benefits of a heart-healthy lifestyle, regardless of age.
At the start of the study, only 5% of participants had ideal health, which was defined as achieving at least five of the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7.”
Life’s Simple 7 includes eating healthy, staying active, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Together, these goals help significantly reduce risk for heart disease and improve overall health.
The remaining 56% of participants had intermediate health, defined as achieving 3-4 of Life’s Simple 7 and 39% had poor health, defined as meeting two or less of these goals.
By the end of the study, 680 participants had developed heart disease or stroke and there were nearly 2,000 deaths. However, researchers found that adults with ideal cardiovascular health had 29% lower risk of death and 67% lower risk for heart disease and stroke than those with poor health.
Authors note that women were more likely to have ideal health than men and achievement of ideal physical activity and blood pressure decreased with age.
The take-home message, according to authors, is that it’s never too late to make changes for better health. In this study, the average age of participants was 74 and even at that age, a healthy lifestyle was protective to health. Authors also explain that while many older adults have medical conditions that increase health risks, maintaining a healthy lifestyle promotes a healthier, longer life, regardless of these conditions.