Why grandmothers need to eat their greens too: Elderly women who have healthy diets and are physically active live longer
Women in their seventies with a healthy diet and who take regular exercise are eight times more likely to live a further five years than their more idle counterparts

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UPDATED:

11:41 GMT, 1 June 2012

Elderly women who eat greens and remain physically active reap the rewards and live longer than those who don't, according to research.

Women in their seventies with a healthy diet and who take regular exercise are eight times more likely to live a further five years than their more idle counterparts.

Scientists
at the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University looked at
data from 713 women aged 70 to 79 years who took part in a study
designed to evaluate the causes of physical disability in older women.

A6JYXT mature woman in kitchen peeling healthy vegetables

Secret of everlasting youth: Women in their seventies with a healthy diet and who take regular exercise are eight times more likely to live a further five years than their more idle counterparts

Lead researcher Dr
Emily Nicklett, from Michigan university, said: 'A number of studies
have measured the positive impact of exercise and healthy eating on life
expectancy, but what makes this study unique is that we looked at these
two factors together.'

The
researchers measured blood levels of carotenoids-beneficial plant
pigments that the body turns into antioxidants, such as beta-carotene,
to check fruit and veg intake.

The more fruits and vegetables consumed, the higher the levels of carotenoids in the bloodstream.

The women's
physical activity was measured through a questionnaire that asked the
amount of time spent doing various levels of physical activity,
which was then converted to the number of calories expended.

The women were then followed up to establish the links between healthy eating, exercise and survival rates.

'The maintenance of a healthy diet and high levels of physical activity will become the strongest predictors of health and longevity'

In
the five-year follow up, 11.5 per cent of the women had died. But serum
carotenoid levels in the survivors were 12 per cent higher and phsucal
exercise was twice as high.

Women
in the most active group had a 71 per cent lower five-year death rate than the
women in the least active group.

And women in the highest carotenoid
group had a 46 per cent lower five-year death rate than the women in the lowest
carotenoid group.

Dr
Nicklett said: 'Given the success in smoking cessation, it is likely
that maintenance of a healthy diet and high levels of physical activity
will become the strongest predictors of health and longevity.

'Programs
and policies to promote longevity should include interventions to
improve nutrition and physical activity in older adults.'

The study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.