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Getting older brings many benefits. Deep knowledge and meaningful relationships are some of the most profound fruits. The ageing process is less kind to your health: age is a prominent risk factor for a range of chronic diseases.

However, you can take steps to mitigate the threat of chronic disease as you age.

That’s the heartening conclusion of a study published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

“Identifying leading determinants for disease-free status may provide evidence for action priorities, which is imperative for public health with an expanding aged population worldwide,” the study researchers wrote.

With this in mind, they aimed to identify leading determinants, especially “modifiable” factors for “disease-free status” using machine learning methods.

For the study, the researchers enrolled 52,036 participants aged 45–64 years from the 45 and Up Study who were free of 13 predefined chronic conditions at baseline.

The 45 and Up Study is Australia’s largest ongoing study of health and ageing and helps researchers to understand how Australians are ageing.

Disease-free status was defined as participants ageing from 45–64 years at baseline to 55–75 years at the end of the follow-up without developing any of 13 specified chronic conditions.

The researchers used machine learning methods to evaluate the importance of 40 potential predictors and analysed the association between the number of leading modifiable healthy factors and disease-free status.

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What did the researchers find out?

Disease-free status was found in about half of both men and women during a mean nine-year follow-up.

The five most common leading predictors were body mass index, self-rated health, self-rated quality of life, albuterol sulfate 4mg side effects red meat intake, and chicken intake in both genders.

Modifiable behavioural factors including body mass index, diets, smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity.

Participants having six or more modifiable health factors were more likely to remain disease-free and had more disease-free years than those having two or fewer.

“Non-behavioural factors including low levels of education and income and high relative socioeconomic disadvantage, were leading risk factors for disease-free status,” the researchers wrote.

They concluded: “Body mass index, diets, smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity are key factors for disease-free status promotion.

“Individuals with low socioeconomic status are more in need of care.”

What is body mass index?

Body mass index (BMI) is the most widely used method to check if you’re a healthy weight.

BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height.

For most adults, a BMI of:

  • 18.5 to 24.9 means you’re a healthy weight
  • 25 to 29.9 means you’re overweight
  • 30 to 39.9 means you’re obese
  • 40 or above means you’re severely obese.

BMI is not used to diagnose obesity because people who are very muscular can have a high BMI without much fat.

But for most people, BMI is a useful indication of whether they’re a healthy weight.

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