IT'S not easy to reach middle age without accruing at least one bad health habit or risk factor. But men who do so are often rewarded with a long life.
That's according to a study that followed more than 5,800 Japanese American middle-age men in Hawaii beginning in 1965. Researchers studied the men, whose average age was 54, for up to 40 years. Those who, at the beginning of the study, had avoided risk factors such as smoking, being overweight, drinking excessively, and developing hypertension and high blood sugar, had a good chance of reaching old age -- some without evidence of disease or physical or cognitive impairment.
The chance of survival to age 85 is as high as 69% in men with no risk factors at middle age and as low as 22% in men with six or more risk factors. Grip strength -- a measure of physical fitness -- was associated with longevity, while not having a marital partner was associated with death before age 85.
"If you're a middle-aged man, No. 1, go see your doctor. If you have your survival risk score calculated, it's something you can think about if you want to be around in retirement or to see your grandchildren," says Dr. Bradley J. Willcox, the study's lead author and a clinical scientist at the Pacific Health Research Institute and Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu.
The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, was published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.