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Healthy behaviours yield major benefits in ageing

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 20 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5156
  1. Stacey A Kenfield, assistant adjunct professor, UCSF; visiting scientist, Harvard School of Public Health12,
  2. Meir J Stampfer, professor of epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health; professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School234
  1. 1Department of Urology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco CA, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston MA, USA
  3. 3Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston
  4. 4Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston MA
  1. Correspondence to: M J Stampfer STAMPFER{at}

Poor diet, smoking, and physical inactivity predict disability in previously non-disabled people

With the remarkable increases in life expectancy in recent decades in many countries, the determinants of quality of life and disability at older ages have attracted increasing attention. Artaud and colleagues in this issue of the BMJ (doi:10.1136/bmj.f4240) provide an important advance in their study of 3982 men and women free of disability at baseline, with mean age of 74 years, and followed for an average of seven years for death and disability.1 During the follow-up, a little over two thirds of the participants remained free of disability, showing that in a substantial proportion of healthy older individuals, disability is far from inevitable by the eighth decade of life. Artaud et al identified several factors that predicted disability, including poor diet (consuming less than one serving of fruits or vegetables a day), smoking, and physical inactivity. Increased body mass index was not considered as a main exposure, but rather as a mediator, and also predicted disability.

The study highlights several key challenges to research into determinants of disability and …

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