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The world’s oldest recorded person was a French woman who died in 1997 at the age of 122. But scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle are now predicting that humans may be able to live for up to 130 years at some point during this century. And as people live longer, the issue of healthy aging becomes even more important.
Now there are clues as to how to create more healthy years from a team of researchers in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Oregon State University in Corvallis. By examining traits, ages, and health status of more than 116,000 people, this international group of scientists identified four key lifestyle factors that lead to healthy aging:
- A healthy weight with body mass index under 25
- Never smoking
- Physical activity
- Moderate alcohol consumption
The research team estimated that a body mass index under 25 plus 2 of the other 3 characteristics is the key to healthy aging—adding 9.4 healthy years for women and 9.9 healthy years for men. In this sense, “healthy” means without chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Although the study did not analyze people’s diets, many of the healthy participants followed a Mediterranean diet. And the researchers recognized that a nutritious diet is the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, which is the fundamental factor in healthy aging. Genes were not analyzed, as genetic profiles of participants were not available.