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Correlation in my family between weight, activity and mental acuity?
Old 06-06-2011, 12:01 PM   #1
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Correlation in my family between weight, activity and mental acuity?

I had the pleasure of spending last weekend with my dad and his remaining brothers and sisters at a family reunion. At the reunion I got to observe a microcosm of closely related 'elderly folk' who have had different attitudes toward weight and fitness throughout their lives.

Dad is the youngest at 72, the oldest is 87. What I observed is that the more active and thin they were the better health both mentally and physically.

The 87-year old has been thin and very active her whole life. Even now she does water aerobics 2x/week. And even though she is the oldest she is mentally sharp and in great shape physically.

Her sister, who is 82, is 70+ pounds overweight and when I asked how she spends her days, she said "watching my soaps". She has back and knee problems and walks slowly with a cane. Mentally she has issues as well. She told the same story three times in less than 15 minutes.

My takeaway (albeit unscientific) is that I'd better be serious about my weight and exercise habits because at least in my family it makes a huge difference in one's quality of life.

Have others here observed similar correlations in their families?
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Old 06-06-2011, 01:09 PM   #2
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Lena's grandmother (mother's side) lived to be 97 and was totally sharp until the end. She had been a tour guide, and gave us a personal tour of Stockholm's stadshuset rattling off dates and anecdotes. She was quite overweight.

Lena's Dad was always fit and trim, but at 85 he is losing it mentally and also gaining weight.

But I'd still say that being as thin as you can is the best bet.
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Old 06-06-2011, 01:25 PM   #3
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My takeaway (albeit unscientific) is that I'd better be serious about my weight and exercise habits because at least in my family it makes a huge difference in one's quality of life.
Considering what fat does to one's knees and blood vessels, yeah, that makes a lot of sense...
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Old 06-06-2011, 01:40 PM   #4
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But I'd still say that being as thin as you can is the best bet.
"You can never be too rich or too thin".

- Wallis Simpson
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Old 06-06-2011, 02:11 PM   #5
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In my family the woman no matter how inactive they are live a long life . None are more than fifteen pounds overweight and most are less than that . They are all mentally sharp . My Mom is 95 and does the New York Times crosswords and beats the pants off younger players at pinochle . The men don't fair so well . They are all active but die sooner . In fact my uncle who was a runner and in great shape died at 50 in a marathon.The men are also mentally sharp until they die .
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Old 06-06-2011, 04:19 PM   #6
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My Dad was thin and very active compared to his 2 older brothers who were well overweight and sedentary once they hit their 70's. He out-lived them by 6 years and stayed sharp until his sudden death at age 84.

Same goes for FIL who died at 85.

My 3 younger siblings are all obese and don't exercise at all outside of work. They all have health problems.

I'm a believer that thin and active is good for the health of the body and the brain.
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Old 06-06-2011, 04:29 PM   #7
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Anecdotally--one grandmother was slender and bonkers in early middle age; the other was what passed for plump back then (now she would be called a little curvy) and was sharp and witty forever. They both lived to early 80s. My skinny parents both passed away in their early and mid 50s.

But just spent the weekend and watched several members of DH's family, in their mid-60s, hobbling around with bad knees and backs caused by 50+ lbs. extra weightage. Their quality of life is not good.
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Old 06-06-2011, 09:04 PM   #8
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... I asked how she spends her days, she said "watching my soaps". She has back and knee problems and walks slowly with a cane. ...

Have others here observed similar correlations in their families?
It may or may not apply in this case, but maybe she is inactive because she has back/knee problems.

Correlation does not imply causation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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Old 06-06-2011, 10:55 PM   #9
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My dad was thin and very active. In his mid-70s he still rode his bicycle and was outside most of the time. He died in his mid-70s. None of that stood for much up against the fact that he was smoker (lung cancer).

My husband's dad was thin and active. He was felled by a sudden heart attack in his mid-70s. He did have a long history of heart disease so perhaps his thinness and activity kept him alive longer than he otherwise would have lived.

My husband's mom was a bit overweight, not severely. She was not a big exerciser but did keep busy. She had a stroke in her mid-70s that was very disabling. She spent several years in a nursing home and died in her early 80s.

Then there is my mom. 15 years ago I would said that she was in the worst shape. She was more overweight than the rest -- again, not hugely obese, but clearly overweight. She had been active when young but not so much in later age. She eats horribly, finally diagnosed with Type II diabetes which she didn't manage well at all. She had a serious heart problem in her early 70s resulting in a surgery where she had a 10% change of dying. But she lived (she did end up thin for a few years after that but has built back up since then). She spends 90% of her time at home watching TV. Yet....she is in her late 80s, still living on her own. She does some walking as activity but isn't real active. In addition to the diabetes she has chronic heart failure. I would never have thought that of the four of them she would be the one to outlast them all.

I do think that being at a healthy weight and active is a good thing, it is just that it isn't the only thing.
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Old 06-06-2011, 11:01 PM   #10
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My father- in-law died at age 101; mother- in- law died at 97; both retired at 62 and sat on their asses for the rest of their lives. Both were over weight. My mother died at 84 and walked 6 miles a day for 40 years. Go figure!
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Old 06-06-2011, 11:25 PM   #11
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My father- in-law died at age 101; mother- in- law died at 97; both retired at 62 and sat on their asses for the rest of their lives. Both were over weight. My mother died at 84 and walked 6 miles a day for 40 years. Go figure!
What we are seeing here is that the law of large numbers doesn't mean much when applied to small samples.

Much of what we do in hopes of living long and healthy lives is more or less in vain, but it makes us feel better. The only things I feel pretty sure are likely to shorten life are smoking and heavy drinking, especially if you drive to and from the bar.

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Old 06-06-2011, 11:56 PM   #12
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The only things I feel pretty sure are likely to shorten life are smoking and heavy drinking, especially if you drive to and from the bar.

Ha
Well, it's a good thing I don't drive in Hong Kong.

I have no idea how long I'll live for, but I'm fairly confident that I'll get more out of my allotted time if I keep myself physically and mentally active than if I sit in the office on my butt all day.
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Old 06-07-2011, 12:53 AM   #13
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Yes, slim, light weight individuals seems to have good health. Having said that, just being over 80 is a good accomplishment, skinny or not.
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Old 06-09-2011, 11:52 AM   #14
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I think for my relatives, moderately overweight, like say 20-30 lbs didn't seem to hurt their longevity. I've seen too thin relatives and too heavy relatives both have health problems. The longest lived (90-100) all were fairly active in younger years, not as much in elderly years, but all were about 20-25 lbs overweight for much of their adult lives. The two who were fashionably thin all their lives developed cancers in their late 60's. One was prostate, one was bone cancer. The 3 who were very overweight had diabetes/congestive heart failure, although one lived to 93.
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Old 06-09-2011, 12:15 PM   #15
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Nothing dumbs down the human brain better or faster than television and inactivity.
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Old 06-09-2011, 12:18 PM   #16
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But I'd still say that being as thin as you can is the best bet.
If that's the case, then at 6'6 1/2" and 162lbs, i'm going to live forever
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Old 06-09-2011, 01:56 PM   #17
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This is all anecdotal, of course, but didn't I see a study not long ago that indicated that 5-10% overweight as you enter your senior years is positively correlated with better health, at least physical health?
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Old 06-09-2011, 02:00 PM   #18
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Nothing dumbs down the human brain better or faster than television and inactivity.
Obviously you have never played "Pocket Frogs" on an iPhone. It makes watching television seem absolutely erudite.
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Old 06-09-2011, 02:05 PM   #19
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This is all anecdotal, of course, but didn't I see a study not long ago that indicated that 5-10% overweight as you enter your senior years is positively correlated with better health, at least physical health?
I have seen that too. I imagine that the correlation would disappear if people who are already in subclinical poor health could be removed from the study.

Also, my guess is that a lot might depend on the biology of the individual we are talking about. For example, if there is any familial or personal tendency to impaired carbohydrate metabolism, I can't imagine that any extra weight could do any good. These studies can be misleading, for it really is true that we are not all alike.

To me, this kind of consideration is why some people improve their health dramatically on low carb diets, while for others these diets may be unnecessary or perhaps even negative.

However, I am convinced that men and women almost always look better leaner.


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Old 06-09-2011, 02:09 PM   #20
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Obviously you have never played "Pocket Frogs" on an iPhone. It makes watching television seem absolutely erudite.
Made me look....

Pocket Frogs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I would be afraid to meet the person who "named" the various level frog characters.

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