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Lifestyle Changes for the Middle Aged


Updated July 02, 2007

Don’t think it is too late for you to start being healthy. Starting in the 1980s, researchers began tracking over 15,000 people. They followed the participants’ risk of heart disease and overall risk of death. They also learned whether the participants had four healthy habits:
  • Eating five servings and fruits and vegetables a day
  • Getting at least two and a half hours of exercise a week
  • Controlling their weight (BMI 18.5-29.5)
  • Not smoking

The Findings

When the study began, only 8.5 percent of the participants had all four of these habits. By six years into the study, an additional 8.4 percent adopted all four habits. Those who began their healthy habits during the study were 35 percent less likely to have heart disease and 40 percent less likely to have died over a four-year period than those who didn't engage in these practices at all.

What It Means

This doesn’t mean that you can wait until middle age to begin living a healthy lifestyle. The healthiest people in the group were those who had the habits the longest.

Also, you can’t assume that doing all four is enough. Researchers did not ask what other healthy things, like getting regular checkups, staying on medication, or avoiding certain foods, people were doing in addition.

What you can be sure of is that even if you haven’t been living a healthy lifestyle, there is a great deal of benefit in starting at any age. Start with these four habits: eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising more, keeping the weight off and not smoking.


Dana E. King, Arch G. Mainous III and Mark E. Geesey. Turning Back the Clock: Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle in Middle Age. The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 120, Issue 7, July 2007, Pages 598-603

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