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How to live four years longer

014-017_Tecnociencia_207-6DANIEL BUENOBy paying better attention to their health and actually avoiding preventable diseases, the elderly could live four years longer. This was the conclusion reached by researchers from the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz; Cadernos de Saúde Pública, April). Working with her colleagues, Solange Kanso, of Ipea, found that chronic diseases – especially heart disease (56.6%), flu and pneumonia (9.3%), and tobacco-related tumors (7.8%) – are responsible for the majority (82%) of avoidable causes of death for seniors up to the age of 74 in the state of São Paulo. Brazil has policies aimed at the prevention of these diseases, such as the National Re-organization Plan for the Care of Hypertension and Diabetes, which targets those age 40 and above. One of the goals of the São Paulo State Department of Health is to reduce hospitalization and death rates related to disorders of the circulatory system. The problem, however, is that “these programs only cover the population from 30 to 59 years of age, which excludes the elderly,” the authors point out. Taking special care of one’s health would extend life expectancy by eliminating what are considered the main avoidable causes of death, especially among the male population, which may be exposed to more risk factors and may rely less on healthcare services. “Had these deaths not occurred,” the researchers report, “the life expectancy in the state of São Paulo at the age of 60 would be 20.5% higher, climbing from 22.2 more years to 26.8 – almost the same as in Japan.” In 2007, 66,190 seniors up to the age of 74 died in the state of São Paulo.