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January 22, 2019

Height may help determine lifespan, new study suggests

For women, at least

Adult Health Life Expectancy
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No one really has any idea how long they’ll live. But nowadays, a person who leads a healthy lifestyle can likely strive to live to at least 90, right? Well, a new study discovered certain physical factors — like height and weight — may point to how long somebody will live.

Scientists from Maastricht University looked at the association between height, body mass index (BMI), and exercise. The study, published in the BMJ Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, involved data from the Netherlands cohort study of men and women aged 55 to 69, which began in 1986.

Nearly 8,000 participants provided information about their weight at the age of 20, including their current weight, height and time spent exercising. They were then monitored until they reached age 90, or died — whichever came first, Insider reports.


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The study found that 433 men and 944 women survived to age 90, but the women who lived that long were, on average, taller and had put on less weight since the age of 20 as compared to women who were shorter and heavier.

Specifically, women who were over 5-foot-9 were 31 percent more likely to reach 90 than women who were 5-foot-3 or shorter, Insider states.

Neither height or weight seemed to factor into whether the men reached their 90s, but activity level did. Men who spent 90 minutes a day (or more) being active were 39 percent more likely to live to 90 than men who were physically active for less than 30 minutes. Additionally, for each 30 minutes a day the men were active, they were five percent more likely to reach that age, CNN reports.

Like most studies, however, there are limitations. Body size and physical activity information were self-reported and not measured — as this was an observational study — and people are not always completely truthful or accurate when answering questions about themselves. Additionally, participants were already in their 60s and 70s at the start of the study, so it is difficult to generalize and apply these results to younger people, Insider explains.

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