Fit For Later Life?

If you were to believe even half the headlines, preparing for later life is a full time occupation. On reading ‘the story behind the news’ the recent headline linking regular tooth-brushing with a reduction in dementia may not be as promising as first appears; but given that good dental hygiene has already been linked with heart health that is definitely one practice on the preparation list.

You can take your pick on tea, coffee and red wine with enough surveys around to prove that your drink of choice is everything from beneficial to detrimental to later life health. And when it comes to eating, the list of super foods is ever-changing with grapes now having been added to the list thanks to a recent study apparently showing that they are rich in antioxidants and therefore good for eyesight.

However, whilst the jury is out on some practices there are others which are less ambiguous. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise; all are widely viewed as detrimental to having a healthy later life. But what about stress and inadequate sleep patterns; over a period of time these too can have a detrimental effect on long-term health.

Sadly, whilst life expectancy is ever-increasing many of us are not able to enjoy later life thanks to ill-health. In fact, according to Public health England, 15 million of us are living with a long-term health condition and 40% of all deaths in England are ascribed to preventable conditions such as the effects of obesity or smoking. In a bid to address this, Public Health England has launched a campaign which aims to encourage people to take control of their health; thereby incurring significant benefits not only now but also in later life.

According to Public Health England, living healthily in middle age can double someone’s chances of being healthy when they reached 70. Their campaign “One You” not only aims to provide a wealth of generalised advice; it also enables people to prepare a more personalised health plan, starting with a One You Quiz.

A quick trawl across the campaign website gives the overwhelming impression that improving health and well-being is less of a full-time campaign and more the adoption of a series of small steps which cumulatively can make a measurable difference. The idea of ditching sugary snacks in favour of a fruit bun may not be a drastic diet step, but the ‘10 surprising 100 calorie’ snacks on a linked page are very tempting. Similarly, those who feel the need to take up exercise but don’t know where to start may find the ‘couch to 5K’ app is a good place to start.

Of course, there are some conditions which may require professional intervention. The best planned health and fitness routine can go out the window when injury occurs. This is when an early intervention by health professionals such as physiotherapists or osteopaths can make all the difference. Nothing is more disheartening than an enforced pause to a fitness program and therefore the quicker that some mobility at least is gained, the less tempting it will be to let the program collapse entirely or to gorge on sugary snacks while waiting for the body to heal.

Having said that, it has to be acknowledged that many health professionals’ diaries are already over full. The demands of providing cost-effective treatment ongoing basis for an ageing population can take their toll. This is where health professionals can perhaps take a leaf out of the PHE book. Making drastic changes to health practice may not be cost-effective or feasible but taking a series of small steps can lead to a cumulative benefit. Practices such as offering an online appointment system, switching telephones to a virtual assistant service and taking payments by card can all help to save administration time.

In fact, anything which helps to cut down on administration time and increase patient treatment time not only benefits patients but also the health professionals themselves. This in turn can lead to a reduction in ongoing stress, something which Public Health England says could eventually take a toll on later life health. In fact, it’s a win-win situation. Perhaps we should all take a look at what small changes we can make in our daily business and personal lives in order to reduce stress and live healthier as we get fit for later life.