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Lifestyle Changes Enhance Elders' Health

Never too late to benefit from improved diet and exercise regimens

TUESDAY, Jan. 1 (HealthDay News) -- People over the age of 65 can improve their odds of avoiding chronic disease and disability by making changes to their diet and exercise routine, even after a history of sub-optimal lifestyle practices, according to a study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Richard S. Rivlin, M.D., of the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in New York City, reviewed research on age-related changes in body composition, exercise, osteoporosis, cancer prevention and cardiovascular disease to see what benefits there were from nutritional and lifestyle improvements made late in life.

For both men and women, aging produces fundamental changes in body composition, with increased body fat and decreased muscle and bone, but exercise can counteract this, and as a result also improve metabolic rates. Long-term calcium and vitamin D supplementation also slows bone loss and reduces incidence of non-vertebral fractures.

"Several population studies of older persons show that following nutritional and lifestyle guidelines for cancer prevention reduces risk by one-third. Improving serum lipid concentrations in adults over 65 years of age with coronary artery disease decreases the risk of future cardiac events by as much as 45 percent," Rivlin writes. "Furthermore, the greatest benefit from control of hypertension is in older individuals."

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