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The Secret of Aging Well

Seven factors predict a long life

Researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital say that seven factors predict whether a person will be happy and healthy at age 70 and beyond:

  • not smoking
  • not abusing alcohol
  • not being depressed
  • having good coping skills
  • staying at the proper weight
  • conducting regular exercise
  • maintaining a harmonious marriage.

Except for depression, all of these factors are a matter or choice, or they can be controlled in various ways. And even depression can now be controlled or cured using various therapies. Other risk factors, like cholesterol levels or an unhappy childhood, may have affected health and happiness at an earlier age but not by the time a person reaches 70.

This means that each of us can largely control our chances for an active and happy old age, the researchers say, although getting there requires decades of healthful habits.

Dr. George E. Vaillant, who directed the study, likens it to keeping a car running smoothly. "For the first few years, a Mercedes runs a lot better than a Chevy, but after 30 years, maintenance is everything."

The Boston Herald describes the research and offers tips for baby boomers, who still have time to change habits that will help them age well. An accompanying story offers first-hand insights on aging gracefully from a few of Boston's most venerable residents.

Earlier this year, another group of American researchers went so far as to predict that medical advances would allow someone alive today to live to be 150. A commentator for the Sydney Morning Herald briefly reviews the shortcomings of aging research and questions whether anyone would want to live quite that long.

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