(HealthDay News) – Higher fruit and vegetable intake combined with exercise improves survival in older women.

Emily J. Nicklett, PhD, from the University of Michigan School of Social Work in Ann Arbor, and colleagues analyzed data from 713 women (aged 70–79 years) who participated in the Women’s Health and Aging Studies. Measurements of kilocalorie expenditure were used to assess physical activity, and total serum carotenoids were a marker of fruit and vegetable intake.

The researchers found that, over five years of follow-up, 82 participants (11.5%) died, but physical activity significantly improved survival (hazard ratio [HR], 0.52; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.41–0.66). The most active women were more likely to survive than the least physically active women (HR, 0.28; 95% CI, 0.13–0.59). Survival was also significantly improved with continuous measures of carotenoids (HR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.51–0.89). Compared to women in the lowest tertile of total carotenoids, women in the highest tertile were more likely to survive (HR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.27–0.91). When assessed together, continuous measures of physical activity (HR, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.42–0.68) and carotenoids (HR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.59–0.98) significantly predicted survival during follow-up.

“The combination of low total serum carotenoids and low physical activity, both modifiable risk factors, strongly predicted earlier mortality,” the authors write.

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