healthy ageingAs scientists across the world are searching for some clues on how to achieve healthy ageing, a trio of ageing experts has called for moving forward with strategies that have been shown to delay ageing in animals. In addition to promoting a healthy diet and regular exercise, these strategies include slowing the metabolic and molecular causes of human ageing, such as the incremental accumulation of cellular damage that occurs over time. By treating the metabolic and molecular causes of human ageing, it may be possible to help people stay healthy in their 70s and 80s, researchers said in a commentary published in the journal Nature.

‘You do not have to be a mathematician or an economist to understand that our current healthcare approach is not sustainable,’ said first author Luigi Fontana, a professor of medicine and nutrition at Washington University and Brescia University. The diseases of old age – such as heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease – tend to come as a package. (Read: Ten facts on ageing and the life course)

More than 70 percent of people over 65 years of age have two or more chronic diseases. ‘We propose using lifestyle interventions – such as a personalised healthy diet and exercise programme – to down-regulate ageing pathways so the patient avoids heart failure in the first place,’ Fontana emphasised. Fontana has found that people who eat significantly fewer calories, while still getting optimal nutrition, have ‘younger’, more flexible hearts. (Read: Balanced lifestyle key to healthy ageing)

They also have significantly lower blood pressure, much less inflammation in their bodies and their skeletal muscles function in ways similar to muscles in people who are significantly younger. ‘Healthy diets and calorie restriction are known to help animals live up to 50 percent longer,’ he maintained. More efforts should be directed to promoting interventions that have the potential to prevent multiple chronic diseases and extend healthy lifespans, researchers emphasised.

How well age depends on many factors?

The functional capacity of an individual’s biological system increases during the first years of life, reaches its peak in early adulthood and naturally declines thereafter. The rate of decline is determined, at least in part, by our behaviours and exposures across the whole life course. These include what we eat, how physically active we are and our exposure to health risks such as those caused by smoking, harmful consumption of alcohol, or exposure to toxic substances.

Even in poor countries, most older people die of NCDs

Even in poor countries, most older people die of noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, rather than from infectious and parasitic diseases. In addition, older people often have several health problems at the same time, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Globally, many older people are at risk of maltreatment

Around 4-6% of older people in developed countries have experienced some form of maltreatment at home. Abusive acts in institutions include physically restraining patients, depriving them of dignity (by for instance leaving them in soiled clothes) and intentionally providing insufficient care (such as allowing them to develop pressure sores). The maltreatment of older people can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences.

The need for long-term care is rising

The number of older people who are no longer able to look after themselves in developing countries is forecast to quadruple by 2050. Many of the very old lose their ability to live independently because of limited mobility, frailty or other physical or mental health problems. Many require some form of long-term care, which can include home nursing, community care and assisted living, residential care and long stays in hospitals. (Read: Interesting facts about ageing)

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With inputs from IANS

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