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Focus on the BIG 5
Photo: Christian Robertson
It’s no surprise that five key health factors that make your RealAge older also steal late-life independence.

Which risk factors are they? Not cancer. Not cholesterol. The top five health factors that increase the likelihood you’ll need help caring for yourself when you’re older are smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and inactivity. Luckily, regular exercise can help take care of four of those risk factors. Ad if you don’t smoke, you’ll be able to exercise even more.

Healthy Lifestyle

The difference between people who remain self-sufficient and those who wind up dependent on others seems obvious: Self-sufficient people lead a healthy lifestyle. Over 20 years of data prove it, and the payoff can be huge, especially when you start in midlife. For instance, midlife diabetic smokers are five times more likely to end up in a nursing home than people free of these factors.

Sure, change can be hard. But when people manage their diabetes well or trade an hour on the couch for an hour at the gym, the odds of suffering chronic, debilitating conditions decline dramatically. Studies show that the most active people are the least likely to have trouble taking care of themselves—bathing, dressing, getting around—later in life. So if you smoke, join a quitting program. If you don’t exercise, start walking. If you’ve put on weight, work on dropping it. If you have high blood pressure, commit to controlling it. If you have diabetes, get aggressive about managing it. And if you fall short, don’t give up. Try, try again.

—Archives of Internal Medicine 2006 May 8;166(9):985-990.

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Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Adventist Messenger, September 2006. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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