Is Diet the Most Important Factor for Senior Health? Maybe Not.

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Healthy habits are important at any age, but it can be easier to get away with poor habits in your 20’s than in your 50’s and 60’s.  As we age, it becomes even more obvious that a balanced diet, regular exercise and taking good care of our bodies will help us live a longer, higher-quality life.  There are many factors to consider when it comes to good health, so which are the most important?  According to a recent survey, there are consistent habits those seniors who consider themselves in “great” health have in common.
The findings, collected by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, were based on interviews of 480,000 people over the age of 65.   Those seniors who take care of themselves were more likely to say they are in “excellent” or “very good” health.  “More specifically, seniors who exercise frequently are much more likely than those who do not to say they are in excellent or very good health -- 51% vs. 34%. Similarly, 46% of seniors who are not obese rate their health as excellent or very good versus 31% of those who are obese. Those who eat healthy and do not smoke are also more likely to be in excellent or very good health than those who do not -- but the differences are not as great.”  Seniors who visited the dentist within the past 12 months were also more likely to say they are in good health – 49% vs. 32%. 
For this group of participants, it seems that regular exercise, not being obese and visiting the dentist are more closely tied to good health than other factors like a healthy diet.  It’s not clear exactly why, but it could be that seniors who are already in good health are able to be more active versus those who have health issues.  It’s still interesting to see these trends, especially since the sample size of the survey is so large.
Although exercise is important, the percentage of people who engage in regular physical activity decreases with age.  Yet the percentage who eat healthy increases dramatically – “into the 60% range when they hit their 40s, the 70% range in their late 50s, and then soars into the high 80% and low 90% range as they move into their 80s and 90s.”  While some habits might be more important than others, any and all healthy choices will help maintain a better quality life as we age.
Interested in learning more about healthy habits for seniors?  Check out SparkPeople’s Senior Health Lifestyle Center.
What do you think?