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Rolling Stones: How They Keep Rockin'

Are there health secrets that let these aging rock stars strut across stages year after year?

These Guys Are Role Models?

Perhaps the Stones are indeed role models for the baby boomers. But if so, they're role models of a very strange sort. If these wild men are still going strong, one might ask, what's the point of keeping healthy habits at all?

It's the kind of question that makes experts on aging twitch nervously.

"You can make up for lost time," concedes Mulhausen. "Research suggests that people who engage in unhealthy behaviors who haven't crossed the line and suffered irreversible health consequences can change their future if they stop -- and start to lead healthier lifestyles."

But that doesn't mean the "Strolling Bones," as they've been called, are in the clear. As they get older, Mulhausen says, their bodies' "homeostatic reserve" -- or ability to weather stress -- will continue to decline. Youthful misdeeds tend to reduce the body's homeostatic reserve. So the Stones may be more susceptible to diseases associated with aging, such as diabetes, heart disease or stroke.

Hearing Loss

And then there's the question of their hearing. Today's top musicians wear custom-made earplugs that dampen noise very effectively. But the Stones were playing long before such protection was available. As a result, they likely are suffering from mild to severe hearing loss, says Gail Whitelaw, PhD, president of the American Academy of Audiology. It's the kind of hearing loss that makes it hard to hear companions in a crowded bar.

Now or later, the Stones may pay a price for their hard living. But if (or when) their past ever does catch up to them, they do have one advantage over many of their hard-living fans.

"If you're going to engage in those activities, make sure you're rich," Mulhausen says. "Because if you're poor, you can't afford the treatments, and the consequences are going to be much more profound."

Reviewed on February 06, 2006

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