A Guide To Healthy Ageing

31/03/2017 11:32 BST | Updated 31/03/2017 11:32 BST

The below is an abridged version of a blog post from my website www.samkwhitaker.com

Do your knees creak when you bend down? Do you feel the need to let out a slight groan every time you get out of a chair? Or do you just want to prevent these things from happening in later life?

Modern medicine and healthcare mean we're living longer lives than ever before. But are we living better lives? Considering the increased prevalence of chronic diseases including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and impairments to mobility, I would say that many are not.

So that begs the question - is it worth it ? Is it worth living an extra 10 plus years if the quality of those years are greatly diminished? It feels like there's so much emphasis on helping people live longer, with comparatively little emphasis on improving the quality of those extra years.

As people age it becomes more and more difficult to do the things that were once routine. They lose mobility and independence as their overall health deteriorates. This leads to lower quality of life and reliance on others.

Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is an age related decline of muscle mass and strength. From the age of 25, there is a progressive decrease in the size and number of muscle fibres resulting in a loss of about 30% of muscle mass at the age of 80.

The reduction in skeletal muscle mass and strength with advancing age is " target="_hplink">associated with diseased states including type 2 diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and reduced mobility and disability, as well as mortality.

It's almost accepted that as you age you become more frail, less mobile, and more accident prone. Obviously some physical deterioration is inevitable as we age. But that doesn't mean we can't do anything to slow it down and postpone the onset. Personally, I intend to fight the aging process and postpone it as much as I can. I've no interest in living a long time if my quality of life is reduced in those later years.

Mobility and independence

This loss of muscle and strength is a big factor in the loss of mobility and independence, as I'm sure will be fairly obvious. It also increases the risk of injury from trips and falls.

I'm sure most of us will know of an elderly person who's hurt themselves after a fall. If we can do anything to reduce the prevalence of these injuries, then clearly we need to do so. Not only to help individuals live healthier, happier lives. But also to help reduce the social and financial cost ageing has on society and the health care services.

It's been estimated that in the USA the direct cost of sarcopenia, (in 2000), was $18.5bn. These costs are represented by hospitalization, nursing home admissions and home healthcare expenditure.

What can we do about it?

Granted, we can't totally prevent muscle and strength loss as we age. However, we can certainly limit the amount we lose and postpone the onset. To do this, there's two main things to focus on.

  1. Participate in regular exercise, resistance exercise in particular
  2. Consume adequate protein

Resistance exercise

Resistance training (RT) is a highly effective strategy to offset sarcopenia and it has numerous beneficial "spillover" effects".

Have you ever heard the phrase, 'use it or lose it'? It can be applied to many physical & mental attributes with muscle mass & strength among them.

So to maintain muscle mass you need to use it. You need to give your body a reason to keep it around.

The power of protein

High protein diets are heavily associated with young guys wanting to build muscle, bodybuilders and athletes. However, a higher protein diet can potentially benefit everyone, in various ways.

Specific to the topic at hand, higher protein intakes "can help limit and treat age-related declines in muscle mass, strength, and functional abilities."

The simplest advice I can give is to base each meal around a high quality protein source.

Why am I telling you this?

I want to help people live healthier, happier lives well into old age. It's heartbreaking to see how so many of the older generation lose mobility and independence in their later years. The benefits that can be gained from paying attention to diet and exercise are so large that I feel passionate about sharing such information.

I want to help people realise that they shouldn't just accept that immobility and frailty come with old age. And that you can do something to fight it. Or at least postpone and attenuate it's affect to live better for longer.

I don't want to sound like I'm touting a proper diet and exercise routine as a cure all. Obviously there's things that they can't help prevent. You should still listen to your Doctor, take any prescribed medication etc. But even if some conditions/disease states can't be prevented by an proper diet & exercise, they might help lessen the effects.

You can read the original, full post, with references, on my website here