Will you live to see 90? Here's how to figure your chances

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WANT to live into your 90s? Well, researchers have calculated exactly how you can improve your chances of reaching a ripe old age.

Eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and avoiding smoking are all key to living longer. But ignore this advice at your peril – failure to follow these health tips could mean your chances of ever seeing 90 candles on your birthday cake plummet to just 4 per cent.

Campaigners said the study, carried out in the United States, again highlighted the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle to avoid illnesses such as heart disease and stroke.

The new research, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, focused on 2,357 men taking part in a study.

A team from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston gathered lifestyle information from the men at the start of the study in 1981. They were then followed up yearly until 2006 to find out about changes in their habits and health.

A total of 970 men (41 per cent of the total) lived to 90 or over.

The researchers calculated that a 70-year-old man who did not smoke, had normal blood pressure and weight, did not suffer from diabetes and exercised two to four times a week had the best chance of living to 90, at 54 per cent. But for every bad habit, the likelihood of passing 90 dropped. Those with a sedentary lifestyle saw their chances fall to 44 per cent. High blood pressure reduced the chances of making it to 90 to 36 per cent, being obese to 26 per cent and smoking to 22 per cent.

Having five risk factors, including taking little exercise, having diabetes and being obese, cut the chances of reaching 90 to only 4 per cent.

The research team, led by Dr Laurel Yates, said: "Smoking, diabetes, obesity and hypertension significantly reduced the likelihood of a 90-year lifespan, while regular vigorous exercise substantially improved it.

"Furthermore, men with a lifespan of 90 or more years also had better physical function, mental well-being and a self- perceived health in late life, compared with men who died at a young age."

The researchers said that the impact of lifestyle risk factors in older people remained controversial, but their study suggested they remained important, at least in men.

A spokeswoman for the charity Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland said: "This research shows the importance of following a healthy lifestyle.

"Giving up smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can reduce your risk factors for heart disease and stroke and make a significant difference to your quality of life.

"It's never too late to be more active. Improved general health and longer independence can be great motivation."

Ellen Mason, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study suggests that if a man aged 70 meets all of the following criteria – smokes, is overweight, has high blood pressure, diabetes and lives a sedentary lifestyle – their chance of reaching 90 is virtually zero. Basically, they will have a reduction in both quality and quantity of life.

"It just goes to show, it is never too late to give up smoking and be more active in order to get fit and lose weight."