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Sutter Health research looking into helping people live longer

Sutter Health and its partners are researching how to keep people healthy longer.

BREA, Calif. — Officials are Sutter Health and partners at the San Francisco Coordinating Center are looking into ways to keep people healthier longer. 

Sacramento resident Kirsten Johnson had to adjust her lifestyle. In her 30s, she had to use a walker to get around, but now, decades later she's doing headstands. 

"I was aging quicker than I wanted to be," Johnson said. "And now I feel like everyone says, 'oh, you're aging backwards' like I'm a vampire or something. So I've chosen to look at life in a different perspective."

She credits a holistic approach to to bettering her life and believes her choices will keep her healthy longer. 

"We're all aging, and so how do we age gracefully? Aging gracefully is coming into an awareness, and an empowerment, and an acceptance of all the things you can do," Johnson said. 

Dr. Steven Cummings, director at the San Francisco Coordinating Center and an expert on women's health, agrees an active lifestyle is the right choice. He says if you want to live a longer life, you have to move your body. 

"The body, the muscles are connected to the brain. If you exercise more, you seem to improve your cognitive, your brain function, and lower your risk of dementia," Cummings said. "Walking or biking to your local health food store will do more to slow your aging than buying and consuming everything that's on the health food store shelves."

He said the second most important part of healthy aging is sleep. 

"We found that sleeping too long, more than about seven hours a day, or too little, less than about five hours, is also associated with dying earlier and with dementia," Cummings said.  "So, the optimal sleep period of like five, six, or seven hours is optimum for maintaining your brain."

Putting a focus on these things could mean adding years to your life. 

"Aging is the most important contributor to your risk of heart disease, your risk of cancer, your risk of dementia. So, understanding and being able to slow aging will reduce the risk of all the diseases to which people are prone to in later life," Cummings said. 

Sutter Health research is looking into multiple areas of aging from Parkinson's Disease to the impact aspirin has on reducing events in the elderly.

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