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'Old fashioned' ways are best to stay young: Chris Whitty reveals best ways to live longer
10 November 2023, 12:02
People should adopt 'old-fashioned' methods to stay healthy as they age because getting ill is not inevitable.
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Professor Sir Chris Whitty called on people to take responsibility for their own health with good diet and exercise while calling on the Government to do more to make healthy lives the norm.
His "old fashioned" tips included simple measures such as not smoking, socialising and exercising.
Publishing his annual report, Health in an Ageing Society, Sir Chris, who is England's most senior doctor, said smoking rates are dropping and alcohol intake is falling in some groups, but 'obesity is going in the wrong direction'.
He said: “There are a lot of things people can do themselves which will delay the point where they first have disability and then multi-morbidity.
“They are old-fashioned things, actually.
“Having lots of exercise, having mental stimulation and a social network, eating a reasonably balanced diet (with) not too much high fat, sugar and salt, moderating alcohol, stopping smoking if you do – these are things which are old fashioned, but they still work.”
The report points to a rise in the availability of foods high in fat, salt and sugar, while places such as takeaways sell "large portion sizes of high-calorie foods".
Government action may include changing these environments, restricting the promotion of high fat, salt and sugar products and using the planning system "to restrict the concentration of hot food takeaways in an area".
Elsewhere in the report, Sir Chris said older people can be robbed of their independence and end up in care when homes, public buildings and towns are poorly planned.
He said that "being an older person in many parts of the country is extremely difficult", with houses currently "built for young families" rather than older people.
Sir Chris suggested art galleries and libraries could have grab rails or ramps to help people move around, while pavements and cycle lanes should be accessible with even surfaces 'because the key thing people want is independence'.
"Homes for older people need to be located in places where they can easily and safely reach the everyday shops and services that they need, preferably by active transport (walking or cycling) to help maintain their physical health.
"Public and green spaces should be designed to meet the needs of older people, including those with sensory and physical impairments."
Sir Chris suggested too many people are given no choice when it comes to life-extending treatments when they may not feel it is in their best interests.
He said that "extending life may or may not be right thing, and the key question on that should be 'What does the patient want?' and that question should be asked."