Eating well in your 50s and 60s can set the stage for healthy aging. Researchers from France, the Harvard School of Public Health and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at health and diet data from more than 10,000 women in their 40's, participating in the long-running Nurses’ Health Study, none of whom had any major chronic diseases when they joined the study. All the women filled out two diet questionnaires in 1984 and 1986. The researchers defined “healthy” aging as survival to 70 years or older with no major chronic diseases or major impairments in cognitive or physical function or mental health. Assessing the diet questionnaires and the women’s health at age 70 or older, the researchers found that ONLY 1,171 (11 percent) qualified as healthy agers.
The team found that these women’s diets were closest to the Mediterranean-style diet. The “healthy agers” were also less likely to be obese or smoke than the other women in the study. They also exercised more in midlife and fewer of them had diagnosis of high blood pressure or high cholesterol compared to the women who were not deemed healthy agers.