To Double the Odds of Seeing 85: Get a Move On

(Wall Street Journal) — The leading edge of the baby boom generation turns 65 next year, which means a new milestone looms on the horizon: age 85.

So what do boomers need to do not just to survive to 85, but to live healthy lives into old age and not break the bank at the federal Medicare program?  The most important strategy, according to the latest research to look at the question, is to be physically active in middle age. “If you are fit in mid-life, you double your chance of surviving to 85,” says Jarett Berry, a cardiologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Put another way: If you’re not fit in your 50s, your projected life span “is eight years shorter than if you are fit,” Dr. Berry says.

Dr. Berry’s findings, presented last week in San Francisco at the American Heart Association’s annual epidemiology and prevention conference, are based on an analysis of 1,765 men and women who had physical examinations performed during the 1970s and 1980s at the Cooper Institute, the Dallas-based birthplace of the aerobics movement. They are a reminder that despite an array of effective drugs and other medical advances, the front line for most of us in the battle to prevent heart disease and survive into old age lies in adopting healthy living habits.

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