There has been a great deal of interest in what people can do to keep aging well and live a longer, healthier life. Some of the answers are common sense, like quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol, while others are not as clear-cut. But the fact of the matter is that when it comes to aging well and increasing longevity, most of the methods are directly related to the type of lifestyle you choose.
The accumulation of excessive body fat, the consumption of a poor diet, lack of regular physical activity, and high stress levels have consistently shown to decrease the chances of aging well while increasing the likelihood of dying prematurely from a chronic disease—and we now have even more scientific proof of this.
A new research report published in The American Journal of Medicine has found that the amount of muscle a person has as they age can determine their risk of dying prematurely. This recent information adds to the fact that your body composition, and not just your body weight or body mass index (BMI), should be considered when determining health risks for aging well.
The study analyzed data from 3,659 participants, including men over 55 and women over 65, during a period from 1988 to 1994. The number of natural-cause deaths that occurred by 2004 were then matched with previous measurements of participants’ body composition to assess the relationship between muscle mass and aging well.
The results indicated that there was a direct relationship between the amount of muscle a person had and their risk of mortality. Those subjects who had the highest amount of muscle mass had the greatest chances of aging well and the lowest rates of all-cause mortality, relative to those with the lowest amounts of muscle mass who showed the highest rates of mortality. In other words, the research team discovered that more muscle or lean tissue mass on the body translated to a lower death risk, because the muscle decreased certain metabolic risk factors, thereby promoting aging well over the years.
There is currently no foolproof way of accurately measuring body composition. Many health and fitness experts rely on the BMI scale for aging well; however, that’s not always accurate, because it’s not always an accurate measurement for all body types. The findings of this study show that we should be focusing more on how to improve body composition (specifically building and maintaining muscle mass) for aging well, rather than focusing solely on the BMI. I could not agree more with this idea, as the information regarding the link between BMI, health risk, and aging well is murky to say the least.
The most accurate way to establish your degree of health risk and ensure aging well is to calculate your percentage of lean tissue relative to body fat. More muscle translates to better control of blood sugar, improved insulin regulation, less body fat accumulation, lowered blood pressure, improved bone mass, decreased levels of inflammation in the body, and reduced risks for falls. All of these metabolic factors not only contribute to aging well, but they can drastically reduce your risk of dying prematurely.
When developing your own tools for aging well, it’s essential to include a good anti-aging fitness plan that incorporates exercises that burn stored fat in your body and also build muscle mass. For optimal results and to ensure that you’re aging well, your anti-aging fitness regimen should consist of cardio at a 50% to 60% maximum heart rate at least 30 minutes every day, combined with a 30-minute weight-training circuit that works your whole body.
“Older adults: Build muscle and you’ll live longer,” e! Science News web site, March 14, 2014; http://esciencenews.com/articles/2014/03/14/older.adults.build.muscle.and.youll.live.longer.
Srikanthan, P., et al., “Muscle Mass Index as Predictor of Longevity in Older-Adults,” The American Journal of Medicine web site, February 18, 2014; http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(14)00138-7/abstract.