The big questions on ageing

Get answers to the big questions on ageing that relate to your health.

The big questions on ageing

What are the issues for women as they age?

I think most people have underestimated the rate at which the community is ageing. They don’t realise that since the mid-1980s, life expectancy has been going up steadily by about 12 months every five or six years.

It would be fabulous if all these extra years were spent in good health, but they’re not in many cases. It used to be ‘how do we prevent a heart attack in a 40 or 50 year old’. Now, it’s ‘how do we delay the onset of disability in older people’.

It’s not all physical disability that’s the issue. It’s not all strokes and heart attacks either. The rates of depression in older people are just amazing.

I guess what I’m saying is that there are physical issues, there are mental issues, but there’s also the brick wall of dementia.

What can you do now to push back the onset of illness in later life?

It’s not an area that has been nearly as well studied as preventing [illness] in the young. You will be able to make a difference by the routine things that prevent heart attacks and strokes, such as keeping blood pressure under control and treating high cholesterol after a heart attack.

What are the biggest health concerns facing older people?

I think the biggest one is dementia. People are living longer, but once you get to between 85 and 90, there’s such a high risk [of developing] dementia. Stroke and heart failure are also important.

What are the messages for women to stay healthy as they age?

Be proactive. Don’t just drift into old age. Your life will change when you retire and your children aren’t around. It is time to develop new interests and make up for things that are no longer going to be part of your life.

Diet is particularly important, so is physical exercise, but so many people’s joints give up and that’s a really big issue. Maintaining good health is a really important thing as is maintaining a network of social connections.

And what about for health professionals?

Manage the heart risk factors. We can largely prevent heart attack and stroke by keeping people’s blood pressure under control and their cholesterol levels down. We can also help by being sensitive to the onset of depression and cognitive decline.

It’s not a matter of prolonging survival; it’s a matter of keeping as many healthy years as we can. That is going to take research because research hasn’t been done in this age group before.

Professor John McNeil AM is the Head of the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. Professor McNeil is also the co-chief investigating the potential benefits of Asprin in healthy people aged over 70.

Published with permission from Jean Hailes.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    2nd Oct 2015
    Diet should be better covered. It can be more important even than exercise. And oestrogen dominance is another thing people need education about - men and women and all ages in fact. As for cholesterol - it is now known that it is far less dangerous than previously told us by the drug companies, who profit greatly from it. I think the doctor needs to update his knowledge.
    2nd Oct 2015
    I agree

    2nd Oct 2015
    After 70, of you don't wake up aching in every joint, you're probably dead.
    3rd Oct 2015
    Pessimist! I got polymyalgia at 70, found a treatment - organic sulphur - that avoided the steroid treatment, and now am limber and energetic. NO waking up aching! It simply depends on how well you take care of yourself.
    3rd Oct 2015
    Your negativity does not bode well for you sir. We all get aches and pains as we get
    older but we do not have to give in to them. I have had polymyalgia and arthritis for years (I am 72) but have not let it stop me from being as active as I can be. My husband and I certainly belong to the Act, Belong, Commit criteria. Try it.
    3rd Oct 2015
    I think that'sxercoxe is the most important factor in aging. Ive got Parkinson's disease but it doesn't stop me frm walking 45 min every day with my pips. Unfortunate,y there are some restrictions that I haven but in the whole I'm looking forward to a long life, I'm 67 at the present n feel that I could live for another 20 years
    5th Oct 2015
    Have you looked into taking some Coconut Oil as a treatment regime.
    It it does not help, it certainly is "Low Cost " and void of "Side Effects"!
    Ample info on the web about it!

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