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Healthy lifestyle leads to healthy aging – WHO

“Good health must lie at the core of any successful response to ageing. If we can ensure that people are living healthier as well as longer lives, the opportunities will be greater and the costs to society less. Overwhelmingly the health challenges in older age are the consequences of non-communicable disease. We need to develop health systems which can provide the chronic care that these diseases and their risk factors require,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the celebration of the World Health Day on April 7 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Older people are more prone to disabilities. WHO’s Global Burden of Disease of 2004 showed that the prevalence of disability increases with age and more than 46% of people aged 60 years and over have disabilities.

For older adults in high-income countries, the biggest causes of burden of disease are, in order of importance, ischaemic heart disease, visual disorders, dementia, cancers and stroke. For low- and middle-income countries, the biggest causes of burden of disease are ischaemic heart disease, stroke, visual disorders, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Because of these statistics, WHO identified a set of evidence-based actions to ease the burden on health brought by ageing population. These include promoting good health and healthy behaviours at all ages to help prevent or delay the development of chronic diseases; minimizing the consequences of chronic disease through early detection and quality care; creating physical and social environments that foster the health participation of older people; and reinventing ageing by changing social attitudes to encourage the participation of older people in the society.

“Older people already make a significant contribution to society, whether it is through the formal or informal workforce. We can foster this contribution by helping them maintain good health by breaking down the many barriers that prevent their ongoing participation in society,” stressed Dr. Chan.