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Healthy lifestyle in your 70s can 'add six years' to lifespan

Being active and living a healthy lifestyle into your 70s can make a huge difference to your life expectancy, the BBC reported today.

The story is based on a large Swedish study of people aged 75 and over, which found that those with a healthy lifestyle (such as not smoking and taking regular exercise) lived, on average, more than five years longer than those with unhealthy lifestyles.

Interestingly, the researchers found that factors not directly related to physical health, such as having an active social life and regular involvement in leisure activities, also contributed to increased longevity.

The findings also applied to the very old – those aged 85 and over – and people who were chronically ill.

This large study, which followed up participants for 18 years, suggests that even when we are old, sticking to a healthy lifestyle (especially not smoking) and keeping physically active, sociable and busy can help us live longer.

One important drawback is that researchers did not look at people’s lifestyles before the age of 75. It is possible that many people led similar lifestyles in the years before they reached 75 as they did after, so it is still unclear what difference improving your lifestyle only in your later years might make to your longevity.

The picture could be more complex than this study suggests. It may also be the case that being healthier in old age means people are more active – rather than vice versa.

Still, leading a healthy, busy life can’t be a bad thing, whatever your age.

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