A vast majority of older people do not take a healthy lifestyle even after the diagnosis of chronic disease, a recent study showed.
Only 19 percent of those diagnosed with lung disease to quit smoking within two years, depending on the health and retirement study, current surveys more than 11,000 Americans aged 50 and older that began in 1992.
Under the leadership of Jason T. Newsom, Ph.D., at Portland State University, the research team seeks to determine the extent to which these adults have changed their smoking, drinking and exercise behavior after being diagnosed with heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, and diabetes.
“Even after the disease has occurred, change in behavior is crucial to improving the quality of life, reducing the risk of recurrence and complications, and prolong life. Quit smoking after a heart attack, for example, reduces the risk of another heart attack by half,” Newsom said.
The largest observed change in behavior was among those who have been diagnosed with heart disease, which resulted in 40 percent of smokers quit smoking. For each disease, smokers consumed fewer cigarettes per day, but only 19 percent of people suffering from pulmonary disease to quit smoking.
There were no significant improvements in the percentage reporting regular vigorous exercise (at least three times a week) after diagnosis of any chronic disease. In fact, the percentage of dropped significantly for those cancers, lung disease, stroke – even though it may be associated with physical limitations that may be associated with these conditions.
Changes in alcohol consumption were small, but among those who are currently drinking, those with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke and lung disease significantly reduced their average number of daily drinks.
In addition, there were several significant and sustained sociology-demographic changes after diagnosis. Women and younger participants were somewhat more likely to exercise and reduce alcohol consumption. Higher education was associated with smoking, increasing exercise and reducing alcohol consumption.
“These results provide important new information about health behavior change in individuals with chronic diseases and suggest that efforts are needed to initiate and maintain lifestyle improvements in this population,” the researchers concluded.
The findings were presented in the journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.