What you can do to live longer?

Women ages 75 and younger are dying at higher rates.
Women ages 75 and younger are dying at higher rates.
Bad signs are easily getting winded, smoking and having trouble pushing a chair across the room.
Bad signs are easily getting winded, smoking and having trouble pushing a chair across the room.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - How much longer will you live? New information out this week may provide some clues.

Do you want to know your chances of dying in the next 10 years? A new test could help you find out.

Meanwhile, it looks like women are dying younger. What you can do to live longer? Health experts say changing personal behaviors and habits could be a good start.

"A lot of it is life style choices," said Jack Hembree director of Healthpoint Fitness.

First, let's look at a morality index researchers developed for people over 50.

Twelve items are assigned points. Lower points mean there is less chance you will die within the next 10 years.

Bad signs are easily getting winded, smoking and having trouble pushing a chair across the room.

Meanwhile a new study finds some women aren't living as long as in previous years.

Women ages 75 and younger are dying at higher rates, especially in rural counties in the south and west.

Some blame higher smoking rates, obesity and less education.

"Behaviors can be hard to change, said Jane Wernsman, Executive Director of the Cape County Public Health Center.

Wernsman says a recent public health assessment showed areas where awareness and better choices could help people live a longer life.

"A lot of the health issues we see do have a behavior component to them," said Wernsman. "Education and awareness can make a big difference."

The big three problems are lower immunizations rates for children, prenatal smoking rates, and obesity.

"Become aware of some of the personal habits that you are doing that you can change personally," said Wernsman. "Screenings can help too. Also, be aware of the resources of the available to you at the Cape County Public Health Center."

Besides the local Health Center or your doctor, one place many people start is the gym.

That's where trainers say these days it's not just about looking, but also feeling good.

"People come in here and turn their lives around," said Hembree. "They don't just lose tremendous amounts of weight, they are able to do things they couldn't do before. They get excited about things like being able to play with their grand kids, or walk a certain distance, or bend over and pick something up that they couldn't before. We assess each overall health and set goals."

Experts say the easiest thing you can do to live longer is eliminate habits like smoking and get moving.

"We want to help people live better and that's the bottom line," said Hembree. "We have to take care of ourselves because we can't totally rely on modern medicine."

The mortality index is meant to help doctors figure out if patients need expensive tests or procedures. Especially if their score doesn't look like they'll make it 10 more years.

Researchers in San Francisco say they developed the test to help patients understand the pros and cons of certain treatments, cancer screening and tests. That's because some of those measures may not be safe or appropriate for people likely to die before the disease ever develops.

The 12 items on the index are assigned points.

Right off the bat, men get 2 points. Then, men and women ages 60 to 64 get 1 point -- ages 70 to 74 get 3 points – and 85 or over get 7 points.

For two points each: current or previous cancer diagnosis, excluding minor skin cancers; lung disease limiting activity or requiring oxygen; heart failure; smoking; difficulty bathing; difficulty managing money because of health or memory problem; and problems walking several blocks.

At one point each: diabetes or high blood sugar; difficulty pushing large objects; being thin or normal weight.

The worst score is a 26. A score of 26, according to the test means you have a 95% chance of dying within 10 years. For that projection, you have to be a man at least 85 years old with every conditions.

A score of zero earns a three percent chance of dying within 10 years. To score so 'well' you'd have to be a woman younger than 60 without any issues.

Experts warn the test is only meant to offer clues.

The findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers created the index by analyzing data on almost 20,000 Americans over 50 who participated in a health survey in 1998. Participants were tracked for 10 years. About 6,000 participants died during that time.

The study regarding women's life expectancy was published Monday in the Journal of Health Affairs.

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