Moderate drinkers may have better chance of reaching age 90 than exercisers

February 23, 2018

People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol live longer than those who abstain—and also live longer than their peers who exercise—based on results of a long-running study by The UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) released this week.

Specifically, Dr. Claudia Kawas, a professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at UCI’s School of Biological Sciences, told a scientific conference in Austin, Texas, “modest drinking improves longevity.”

Indeed, The 90+ Study—which looks at the habits, diet, activities and medical history of the “oldest-old” among us—has established that elderly people who drink two glasses of wine or beer a day are 18% less likely to die early.

And surprisingly enough, that makes them healthier than their peers who exercise—who only reduce their risk of premature death by 11%, the UCI MIND researchers found.

What’s more, the researchers found, people who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than average or underweight people did.

The 90+ Study was initiated in 2003 to study the oldest-old—the fastest growing age group in the United States.  Today, it is among the largest studies of the oldest-old in the world. More than 1,600 people have enrolled

Initial participants in the UCI study were once members of The Leisure World Cohort Study (LWCS), which was started in 1981.  The LWCS mailed surveys to every resident of Leisure World, a large retirement community in Orange County, California (now incorporated as the city of Laguna Woods). Using the 14,000 subjects from the LWCS, researchers from The 90+ Study were able to ask, What allows people to live to age 90 and beyond?

 Among the findings of the study over the past 30-plus years is that more than 40% of people age 90 and older suffer from dementia while almost 80% are disabled. Both are more common in women than men.

 The 90+ Study is seeking new participants. If you are at least 90 years old and are willing to participate in twice annual visits and donate your brain to research after death, you may be eligible to enroll in The 90+ Study.

Research contact: awasserm@uci.edu

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