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A landmark study confirms healthy eating and exercise are the key to good health in old age

A landmark study run over 35 years has revealed that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of ill health and disease in old age. The study, funded jointly by the Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer's Society and the British Heart Foundation, is the largest of its kind.

Started in 1979, the study has recorded the lifestyles of 2,500 men from Caerphilly, Wales at regular intervals. At the beginning of the study, the men were asked to eat well, keep trim, exercise regularly and refrain from smoking. Every five years, their diet, weight, alcohol intake and exercise levels were measured, and their blood was tested.

Three decades later, only 25 men had stuck to the regime. However, those who persevered were found to have dramatically cut the risk of developing cancer, diabetes and dementia, as well as reduced the risk of suffering from a heart attack or a stroke.

Those who followed at least four out of five of the recommendations reduced their chances of developing diabetes by 70%; of having a stroke or heart attack by 60%; of contracting various forms of cancer by 40%; and of developing dementia by 60%.

Study leader Professor Peter Elwood of Cardiff University, said: “Although following these steps does not give them complete protection against disease, the men, who, despite living healthily, developed a disease, did so at a much older age than the men who were neglectful of their lifestyle. As a nation, we must wake up to the preventive power of living a healthy life."

Fiona Lowry, CEO of The Good Care Group, added, “The results of this study reinforce the importance of healthy eating throughout life and into old age. It’s an area we continue to invest in - all of our carers are trained in how to prepare nutritious and wholesome meals for their clients”.