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Unhealthy Lifestyle Raises Disability Risk

Posted Aug 24 2013 10:07pm
Posted on Aug. 21, 2013, 6 a.m. in Lifestyle
Unhealthy Lifestyle Raises Disability Risk

Previous research has demonstrated that unhealthy behaviors raise a person’s risks of obesity, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and sudden cardiac death.  Alexis Elbaz, from the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (France), and colleagues analyzed data collected in the French Three-City study, which enrolled community-living adults ages 65 and older in Dijon, Bordeaux, and Montpelier. Participants were recruited from electoral rolls in 1999, 2000, and 2001, and were free of disability at the study’s start. Subjects were interviewed to ascertain lifestyle factors when they enrolled, and disability was assessed by an in-person interview six times over 12 years.  The team used three disability scales -- mobility, instrumental activities of daily living, and basic activities of daily living -- and constructed a hierarchical indicator of disability that combined the three.  Low or intermediate physical activity, consumption of fruit and vegetables less than once a day, current smoking or having quit less than 15 years before, and either heavy or no consumption of alcohol were all considered unhealthy behaviors.  The researchers collected complete data on 3,982 people who contributed 27,141 person-years in a total follow-up of 12 years; 1,236 developed a disability, for an incidence of 45.5 per 1,000 person-years.  Adjusted survival analyses revealed that physical activity was associated with a 72% increase in the risk of disability. Consuming an unhealthy diet – including fruit and vegetables less than once a day -- associated with a 24% increase in disability,.  Current smoking or having quit less than 15 years before entering the study associated with a 26% increase in the chance of disability.  Moreover, the risk of disability increased significantly with the number of unhealthy behaviors, and participants with three unhealthy behaviors had a 2.53-fold increased hazard of disability, as compared with those with none.  The study investigators warn that: “An unhealthy lifestyle is associated with greater hazard of incident disability, and the hazard increases progressively with the number of unhealthy behaviours.”

Artaud F, Dugravot A, Sabia S, Singh-Manoux A, Tzourio C, Elbaz A.  “Unhealthy behaviours and disability in older adults: Three-City Dijon cohort study.”  BMJ. 2013 Jul 23;347:f4240.

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Tip #192 - Stay Connected
Researchers from the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) report that social isolation may be detrimental to both mental and physical health. The team analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a nationwide US study involving 3,000 men and women, ages 57 to 85 years. They arrived at three key findings regarding the relationships between health and different types of isolation:

• The researchers found that the most socially connected older adults are three times as likely to report very good or excellent health compared to those who are least connected, regardless of whether they feel isolated.

• The team found that older adults who feel least isolated are five times as likely to report very good or excellent health as those who feel most isolated, regardless of their actual level of social connectedness.

• They determined that social disconnectedness is not related to mental health unless it brings feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Separately, Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) researchers studied 906 older men and women, testing their motor functions (including grip, pinch strength, balance, and walking) and surveying their social activity, for a period of 5 years. Those study participants with less social activity were found to have a more rapid rate of motor function decline. Specifically, the team found that every one-point decrease in social activity corresponded to an increase in functional aging of 5 years, translating to a 40% higher risk of death and 65% higher risk of disability.

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