Sick seniors find it hard to break habits

July 31, 2012 at 11:30 PM   |   Comments

PORTLAND, Ore., July 31 (UPI) -- U.S. seniors with a serious disease tend to not change their unhealthy lifestyle, although better habits could improve outcomes, researchers say.

Study leader Jason T. Newsom Portland State University analyzed data from an ongoing survey, which began in 1992, of more than 11,000 U.S. adults age 50 or older to determine to what degree these adults modified their smoking, drinking, and exercise behaviors after the diagnosis of heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease and diabetes.

The study, published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, found only 19 percent of those diagnosed with lung disease quit smoking within two years.

"Even after an illness has occurred, change in behavior is critical for improving quality of life, reducing risk of recurrence or complications, and extending life," Newsom said in a statement. "Quitting smoking after a heart attack, for example, cuts risk of a second heart attack in half."

The largest observed change in behavior was among those who were diagnosed with heart disease -- 40 percent of smokers quit. However, for every disease, smokers decreased the number of cigarettes consumed per day, but only 19 percent of those suffering from lung disease quit, the study said.

There were no significant improvements in those reporting regular vigorous exercise -- at least three times per week. In fact, the percentage exercising declined significantly for those with cancer, lung disease and stroke, which might be due to the physical limitations of the disease.

Changes in alcohol consumption were small, although among those who currently drinking, those with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke and lung disease significantly decreased their average number of daily drinks, the study said.

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