FRIDAY, Aug. 31, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- So how much of a benefit might you get from exercising, eating right and avoiding vices like smoking? New research from Sweden suggests that healthy living into old age can boost life spans by several years.
The study sought to determine how healthy living affects people aged 75 or older. The researchers, from the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University, followed more than 1,800 people for 18 years, from 1987 to 2005, and kept tabs on their life choices, social networks and leisure activities, among other things.
Although 92 percent died during the study period, half lived to be more than 90 years old, according to the report published online Aug. 30 in the BMJ.
Women, people who were highly educated, those who had stronger social networks, took part in leisure activities and maintained healthy lifestyles were most likely to live longer, the investigators found.
Smokers died, on average, a year before nonsmokers. But those who quit earlier survived about as long as those who'd never smoked, study author Debora Rizzuto and colleagues pointed out in a journal news release.
People who exercised on a regular basis -- including swimming and walking -- lived two years longer on average than those who didn't. And those who had the healthiest lifestyles overall lived 5.4 years, on average, more than those with the unhealthiest lifestyles.
"Even among the oldest old (85 years or older) and people with chronic conditions, the median age at death was four years higher for those with a low-risk profile compared with those with a high-risk profile," the study authors wrote in the report.
For details about healthy living, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.