As many as 2 million Britons could be living with four or more chronic diseases within the next 20 years.
Despite life expectancy rising year on year researchers have painted a grim picture of Scotland and the UK’s future.
At the moment there are around 1.3 million people aged 85+ living in the UK, this number is expected to double by the year 2035. Longer lives does not necessarily mean better lives though. The recent study on over 300,000 individuals from around the UK aged 35+ revealed that 54% of those aged 65+ had already developed 2 or more chronic illnesses
Unfortunately the future doesn’t look any brighter for the younger generations, based on these numbers and taking into account current lifestyle choices it’s estimated that by 2035, 17% of people aged 65+ will be living with four or more chronic illnesses, with 67% of these people living with at least two. The paper cites ‘poor health behaviours’ (smoking, excessive drinking) and ‘physical inactivity’ as major risk factors for this new threat of multimorbidity which are not receiving enough attention.
Professor Carol Jagger, one of the research paper’s authors spoke to The Times saying that “it is primarily the lifestyle factors that are driving these disease. We are much more sedentary than we were before.”
Although there are a number of chronic illnesses that cannot be prevented, many of the conditions that mar the lives of older people today (COPD, heart disease, lung cancer) can be attributed to leading an unhealthy lifestyle. By making just a few simple changes to your lifestyle you can avoid developing the kind of diseases that could dog you in later life.
These might sound like pretty simple tenets to live by, but recent statistics have suggested that Scots are drinking more than ever before. Research has shown that alcohol was responsible for 22 deaths a week in 2017, not to mention nearly 700 hospital admissions. These rates were reported to be uniformly higher in the most deprived areas of the county. Indeed, alcohol-related admissions are now 4.4 times higher than they were three decades ago.
By reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink you can limit the chance of developing liver disease, heart disease and pancreatitis – just to mention a few.
Although the obesity rate in Scotland has stabilised over recent years, the rate still remains alarmingly high with 65% of the country reported as being overweight, whilst just under 30% of the country have been reported as being obese. Although the proportion of children at risk of being overweight has reduced in recent years much work still needs to be done in changing cultural attitudes to the way we approach food.
Eating a balanced diet consisting of a good variety of fruits and vegetables can reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia – all of which can lead to heart disease.
A sedentary lifestyle is currently seen as one of the key drivers behind this troublesome trend in chronic diseases, despite exercise being more fashionable than ever. Inactivity is now seen by Health Scotland as being the joint second biggest cause of death along with smoking. The ‘entry point’ for becoming active is now very low thanks to discount sportswear sellers undercutting high street stores making the cost of trainers and other sporting equipment the lowest it’s been in years.
By taking part in regular exercise that gets your heartbeat above its resting rate you can reduce your chance of developing cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes as well as depression, obesity and high blood pressure.