Healthy age­ing lit­tle to do with age or obe­sity

The Sun (Malaysia) - - LIFESTYLE -

WHEN it comes to main­tain­ing health in one’s older years, age means lit­tle and obe­sity may not be so bad af­ter all, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent US study.

Fac­tors such as lone­li­ness, de­pres­sion and hav­ing bro­ken a bone re­cently are more likely to pre­dict a per­son’s risk of dy­ing in the next five years, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Chicago found.

“The health­i­est peo­ple were obese and ro­bust,” said the study in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Acad­e­mies of Science, which found that 22% of older Amer­i­cans fit that def­i­ni­tion of good health de­spite higher obe­sity and blood pres­sure.

They had fewer or­gan sys­tem dis­eases and bet­ter mo­bil­ity, sen­sory func­tion and psy­cho­log­i­cal health than oth­ers. They were also the least likely to die or be­come in­ca­pac­i­tated five years into the study, which in­volved 3,000 peo­ple aged 57 to 85.

Re­searchers also un­cov­ered new classes of peo­ple at twice the risk of dy­ing or be­com­ing in­ca­pac­i­tated in five years.

They in­clude those of nor­mal weight who face one key health prob­lem such as thy­roid dis­ease, ane­mia or ul­cers, those who had bro­ken a bone since age 45, and those with poor men­tal health.

The most un­healthy are those with un­con­trolled di­a­betes and high blood pres­sure, and who of­ten face chal­lenges get­ting around and per­form­ing daily tasks.

“In­stead of poli­cies fo­cused on re­duc­ing obe­sity as a much lamented health con­di­tion, greater sup­port for re­duc­ing lone­li­ness among iso­lated older adults or restor­ing sen­sory func­tions would be more ef­fec­tive in en­hanc­ing health and well­be­ing in the older pop­u­la­tion,” said co-au­thor Edward Lau­mann of the Univer­sity of Chicago.

Al­though can­cer caused 24% of deaths among peo­ple over 55, it “seemed to de­velop ran­domly with re­spect to other or­gan sys­tem dis­eases”, the study said.

Obe­sity had long been con­sid­ered a lead­ing risk fac­tor for dan­ger­ous con­di­tions such as heart at­tack and stroke. Still, cur­rent med­i­cal wis­dom holds that peo­ple are healthy if they can avoid heart dis­ease, can­cer, di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure and high choles­terol lev­els.

But authors of the new study de­scribed a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, known as the ‘com­pre­hen­sive model’ of health and age­ing, that in­cludes fac­tors such as psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing, sen­sory func­tion and mo­bil­ity as es­sen­tial fac­tors of over­all health.

Us­ing this new lens, about half of those con­sid­ered healthy un­der the cur­rent med­i­cal model ac­tu­ally have “sig­nif­i­cant vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that af­fect the chances that they die or be­come in­ca­pac­i­tated within five years”, the study said.

“At the same time, some peo­ple with chronic dis­ease are re­vealed as hav­ing many strengths that lead to their re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion as quite healthy, with low risks of death and in­ca­pac­ity.”

The find­ings sug­gest that “from a health sys­tem per­spec­tive, a shift of at­ten­tion is needed from dis­ease-fo­cused man­age­ment, such as med­i­ca­tions for hy­per­ten­sion or high choles­terol, to over­all well-be­ing across many ar­eas,” co-au­thor Wil­liam Dale said. – AFPRe­laxnews

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