This article is a reposting of the Breakspear Medical Bulletin Issue 51 AW21-22.
The population of the UK is getting older and looking after your health is increasingly important to help give yourself the best future. It is important to look after our environment to reduce its impact on our well-being. This article shares some information on how to grow old happier and healthier in our modern world.
When people talk about getting older, many share the desire to remain mentally engaged, retain mobility and stay safe. Lifestyle interventions can help with your well-being and reduce the effects of ageing.
Nutrition & detoxification
It is beneficial for everyone to learn more about nutrition, or consult with a naturopath or nutritional therapist, in order to learn about optimising dietary choices, which may involve adjusting for food allergies/sensitivities.
Making an effort to include foods with antioxidants may help your body with detoxification. In addition to eating well, there are pathology tests available that can illustrate vitamin or mineral deficiencies, as well indicate irregularities in gut microbiota, which can be corrected by improving your diet and/or with supplementation.
Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. While it can affect anyone, including children, women are more at risk, particularly if the menopause begins early (before the age of 45). Bone density loss can be prevented by maintaining healthy levels of calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D and other essentials, checking nutritional status, hormone status and maintaining an active lifestyle.
Managing your weight is also important as being overweight (or underweight) can be a major cause of illnesses, such as an increased risk of diabetes, arthritis and stroke.
|GET CHECKED REGULARLY|
When you visit your doctor, it is a good idea to have them check your:
Unusual levels or variation in these areas may indicate the early stages of potentially life-changing condition.
A loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to an increased risk of falling and fracturing bones.
From birth until about the age of 30, one’s muscles are growing larger and stronger and then as one ages further, muscle mass slowly starts decreasing. This decrease is more noticeable in physically inactive people.
Make moving around a priority. Simply going for a short walk, doing a few jobs around the house or garden, or walking down the road to post a letter, can make a difference.
In addition to keeping active, it is a good idea to exercise, which involves more exertion of your muscles. This can be done at home or a gym. Studies and research have found that exercise affects one’s mood positively and can help alleviate depression.
If someone has thin or weak muscles and tends to walk slowly and/or struggles with a standard grip test assessed by a clinician or has been on long-term steroid use, treatment for sarcopenia may be recommended. The treatment plan would focus on changes in diet and nutritional supplements (when required), as well as exercise programmes.
Keeping your brain active
A recent American study concluded that you are more likely to live longer if you retire later. Even after removing the typical variables, such as gender, ethnicity, age, education, marital status and wealth, the researchers still found that retirement age was related to mortality, beyond all those variables.
There are many other ways to keep your brain stimulated, including volunteering, which can involve interaction with other people and learning new things, and brain games, which challenge your brain to work and strengthen neural connections. Learning how to play an instrument or learning a new language, reading a book or starting a new course at school can all help.
Practise memorising things; learning new memory tricks will improve your memory and may impress your friends.
Dealing with dementia
One of the biggest concerns with getting older is the threat of dementia. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing; it is a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain, caused by various diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
Due to the pandemic, in 2020, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in England and Wales, which moved dementia to second place for the first time since 2015, according to the Alzheimer’s Society website. Almost 25% of the people who died from Covid in 2020 also had dementia.
The NHS website states that there’s no certain way to prevent all types of dementia, however, there is good evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk.
A healthy lifestyle can also help to prevent cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and heart attacks, which are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Being overweight can increase your blood pressure and the risk of type 2 diabetes, which are both linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.
Dementia usually develops as a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as smoking.
Research to find out how global warming is affecting human health is increasingly important.
A 2021 report published in The Lancet stated that in the past 20 years, heat-related mortality among people older than 65 years has increased by more than 50% with increased dehydration, kidney disease, skin cancer, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, such as anxiety, depression and sleep disorders, pregnancy complications, allergies and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality. The harms disproportionately affect the most vulnerable.
Natural outdoor environments, including green spaces, play an important role in preserving health and wellbeing. While it may seem more comfortable to stay indoors in atmospherically controlled spaces, it is important to spend time outdoors, too.
Liver & detoxification
The liver is metabolically the most complex organ in the body. While it has various functions (see page 6 About your liver for more information on its important functions), it is essential for making toxins less harmful to the body and removing them from the bloodstream.
Adverse reactions to drugs are often due to a decreased capacity for clearing them from the system.
At Breakspear Medical, a DetoxiGenomic panel can be used to determine how efficiently the liver is working at clearing the pollutants from the body. Measuring the detoxification pathway enzyme through a genomic panel could be very valuable, as each process can be supported nutritionally with various, specific vitamins and minerals.
Trend of growing older
People are living longer and this trend may be in part because of improved medical knowledge and health service use in elderly people. For example, if type 2 diabetes is diagnosed earlier and treatment begins sooner, there would be improved health, which could lead to a more active life, which could improve enjoyment of life for longer.
Believe in yourself and do not resign yourself to the myth of inevitable decline. Research shows that the brain can rewire, strengthen, improve, adapt and continue learning. It is your role to give it the chance to do so.
If you suspect that you are experiencing typical signs of ageing, seek medical advice, which could provide some lifestyle changes to improve and extend your quality of life. Find out how to book an appointment with a member of our Clinicial Team.