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With a new report around attitudes to ageing released today, be positive, be more active, age better – By Sir Muir Gray

It’s official, NICE, the Department of Health’s key organisation for reviewing research about health and disease, has recommended action to people in ‘midlife’ to prevent not just heart disease and stroke, but also ‘disability, dementia and frailty’!

This is amazing and encouraging news for people in ‘midlife’ but what is ‘midlife’?

In the past, it would probably have meant forty to sixty, but with so many people living to 100 we should also include people in their sixties and seventies. The new Spring Chicken survey shows that many people in their eighties are still keen to prevent disability and decline.

Of course it helps to have been born and brought up in a healthy, wealthy environment and have inherited good genes, but genes are responsible for only about one fifth of the diseases that occur and too many older people have a low income that causes stress. But no matter how difficult your life may be, taking action to reduce the risk of disability and dementia will make a difference not only to your long term health, but also to how well you feel next month.

There is growing interest in what is called “regenerative medicine” in the USA, namely the development of drugs to slow the ageing process and prolong life expectancy or lifespan.  Most people however, are interested in living well for longer, increasing healthspan – life without disability or dementia, (indeed the research from Spring Chicken found that 50% of women and 30% of men over the age of 65 worry about dementia), with people feeling on average 25 years younger than they are.

What’s important, is adding life to years as well as adding years to life.

Don’t worry about ageing, don’t wait for the drugs, reduce the risk of disease, get fitter and be positive.

This message is for all older people, even those who have one or more chronic conditions like arthritis or high blood pressure.

In fact, trying to get fitter, eating well and sleeping well are even more important for people with long term health problems. The medical profession has woken up to the potential of exercise, actually calling it ‘The Miracle Cure” in a recent report. Perhaps the most encouraging news is that you can reduce the risk of dementia, previously thought to be an inevitable part of ageing.

Every year the research produces more encouraging findings about steps we can take that will result in what the World Health Organisation has called ‘Healthy Ageing’ in its recent report on the dramatic increase in the numbers of older people in all countries and how that should be regarded as a matter for celebration.

Click here to find out more about the new campaign from Spring Chicken which challenges the nation on attitudes to ageing.