For many years your heart health has been considered a good indicator of whether or not you will live longer than the person standing next to you. Studies on aging have come a long way though, and now scientists believe joint health can help determine your longevity as well.
Joint health is something most of us don’t think about until we are much older or until we experience an accident or sports injury that impacts our musculoskeletal system. However, a report in the European Journal of Cardiology indicates that a simple sitting and standing test; one that shows how your joints function may predict how long you are going to live.
Brazilian researchers monitored over 2000 adults for just over 6 years. Each adult was asked to sit down on the floor and then get up without using much support from their hands, knees or other parts of the body. The participants would get 5 points if they could sit down without touching their legs, knees, hands or arms on the floor. They would get another 5 points if they could get up off the floor unassisted. They lost one point for every body part they leaned on while getting up or down. For example, if a person could go down on the floor with just one knee touching the ground, they would end up with four points. If a person touched a knee and hand on the floor as they were getting up, they would lose 2 points and end up with a score of three. Anyone who looked unstable or shaky on the way up or down lost half a point. People who scored zero to three were 6.5 times as likely to die during the course of the study, compared to those who scored 8 to 10. Those with scores of 3.5 to 5.5 ended up 3.8 times as likely to die as the high scorers. Finally, people who were in the 6 to 7.4 range were 1.8 times more likely to pass away.
Doctors have used a sit and rise test for quite some time to test leg and muscle strength in seniors, but few studies have been this difficult or have taken a close look at the impact on longevity.
One doctor who worked on the study through Gamo Filho University in Rio de Janeiro said that ease of getting up and down is dependent on the ratio of muscle power to body weight, but Claudio Gil Soares de Araujo indicates that “body flexibility, balance and motor coordination” are also important factors. Often times poor flexibility, balance and coordination can put people is situations that make them more prone to accidents that can lead to serious injury or even death. During the Brazilian study one hundred and 59 participants died; the majority had the most trouble getting up and sitting down.
Both the public and the scientific community seem to have a fascination with aging. Countless research projects around the globe are being conducted today in an effort to help us live longer, as well as unravel some of the mysteries that come along with the aging process. Some scientists believe that telomeres can be used to predict long term health. One of the two scientists that shared the Nobel peace prize in 2009 has cofounded a company; Telomere Health, to provide a telomere test to the public. Telomeres are small protective caps at the end of chromosomes that keep them from fraying when cells divide. Scientists have determined that telomeres shorten when people age. Studies have linked increasing numbers of shortened telomeres to a shorter life span and to diseases including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
General practitioners applaud the work that is being done in the area of joint health, heart health and the science of telomeres, but say what the general public needs to focus on is a proper lifestyle which includes regular exercise, adequate sleep, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.