Are we in denial about our health?

Posted on: 20 January 2014 by 50connect editorial

Skipping regular check ups can have serious implications for healthy ageing.

Unhealthy coffee and donuts

The good news: life expectancy is increasing. The bad news? We’re not making the most of these extra years by avoiding being proactive about our health, according to a new survey.

A new survey suggests that, as we age, we are shunning medical checks which could impact how likely it is that we suffer from chronic illnesses as we get older that could otherwise have been preventable. In fact, the survey (conducted by Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel ShARP) says that one in five of us avoid our GP once we hit 55. The reason? Many of us believe that health issues, such as joint problems, heart disease and even cancer, are unavoidable as we head into older age so there’s no point. According to the survey only 6 per cent of respondents believed that they had any power to reduce their risk of getting cancer, despite the fact that one in three cancer is preventable by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Experts are hailing the survey as a ‘reality check’ for older people, in the hope that we can cut the risk of age-related disease by changing our behaviour. Dr Catherine Hood, expert for Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel (ShARP) says: “We need to keep on top of our healthcare needs as we age and that starts with a reality check – having regular check-ups such as eyesight tests, so taking a preventative approach to managing our health, having an active healthy lifestyle, plus a diet rich in nutrients.”

So what are the steps we can take to ensure that we breathe further life into our years and make the most of the extra years?

Nutrition

Good nutrition is key to achieving optimal health across the lifespan. Antioxidants can play a key role by helping to neutralise free radicals before they can damage our cells. “Choose a variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables (yellow, orange, red, purple and dark green) as they are high in antioxidant pigments, each colour offering something different” says Healthspan’s Head of Nutrition, Robert Hobson.  “Sorry, potatoes don’t count, unless they're orange or purple.”  Antioxidant supplements may also play a role – especially selenium as dietary intakes are at an all-time low.

Check in for a check up

For some motivation to look after your health it is worth taking advantage of a check-up with you GP so that you can identify your personal risks. This is particularly true when it comes to heart health and it is essential to find out whether you are at particular risk of stroke or CVD. “All adults over the age of 40 should have a full assessment,” says Dr Trisha Macnair. “So, if you haven’t talked to your GP recently about your blood pressure or cholesterol, now is the time for a check-up. Then you can deal effectively with personal risk factors.”

Be active

As we get older it becomes even more important that we all make physical activity part of our everyday life. Why? Well, on the disease side of things it helps reduce the risk of developing numerous ones such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Mentally, it plays a key role in our well-being by making us feel better about ourselves and also by helping reduce stress, anxiety and feelings of depression. And, if you need to lose weight or perhaps want to avoid becoming overweight, then it’s a very useful part of the energy balance equation - exercise helps burn off energy from food and drink. Furthermore, even if you didn’t lose weight but simply became fitter, physical activity would help you avoid the many health complications of being overweight.

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