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Women: Living Longer, Looking Younger

By Nicky Morris

Making key changes to your lifestyle can keep you looking younger and healthier.

It doesn't take a doctor to tell you that being overweight, smoking, drinking too much and lack of exercise will contribute to poor health. But how do all these different factors increase the chances of dying?

A group of researchers from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health and Human Services, joined together to examine this question. They've been looking at the many factors which may possibly influence the life expectancy of older women, either by increasing or decreasing it.

The researchers said about the purpose of study that: "Our goal was to assess the relative strength and joint contributions of factors on the risk of death in postmenopausal women". They were specifically examining the factors that were affecting life expectancy, which could easily be adjusted by simple changes to diet or increasing exercise.

What are most important factors for a long life?

The study was large, consisting of almost 18,000 women, who had an average of 68.

The most significant risk factors that could easily be changed were: being unfit, smoking, high blood pressure and being overweight with a high concentration of fat around the abdomen.

What can you do reduce these risk factors?

This study demonstrated fortunately, that just making some simple changes to your lifestyle can in fact pay big dividends to your overall health and wellbeing and also your life expectancy.


Start to exercise. Any type of exercise is good for health, even a simple 30 min daily walk has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, reduce arthritic pain, reduce the progression of dementia and diabetes, reduce depression, and make you lose weight, which leads to the second point and third points.

Trim down and lose that stomach. The researchers pointed out that it was really important to lose the 'tummy fat', as studies have indicated that there's increased risk of heart disease in people carrying fat round their waist.

Maintaing a normal blood pressure, which can be done by exercise, balanced diet and not smoking.

Quit smoking. For smokers, giving up dramatically reduces the risks of cancers and heart disease. It's never too late.

In considering these four factors, the researchers pointed out that smoking was perhaps the most damaging to your health, causing 25% of cancer deaths in women. The researchers said: "The strong association of smoking with mortality is a critical reminder that smoking is the most important modifiable risk factor that physicians and society should address, even in older women." (Arch Intern Med 2006;2469-77)

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