Core to our Age-Well Project is understanding that the more we do to reduce our risk of age-related degenerative disease now, in our 50s, the better. Many diseases of old age take root in mid-life: for a healthy, happy old age we need to tackle our future wellbeing now.
So we were fascinated to read new research confirming this. Researchers in Sweden tracked 800 women for 44 years to see if their activities, both physical and mental, could impact their dementia risk. At the start of the project the average age was 47 (roughly where Annabel and I were when we started this Project) and the women were followed for the rest of their lives. They were ranked according to their level of creative activity, so visiting an art gallery or theatre in the last six months counted as moderate activity. High activity was defined as more frequent cultural visits, and painting or singing in a choir. They were also divided according to their levels of physical activity: active (ranging from walking, gardening or biking to more intense exercise like running or swimming for at least four hours per week) and inactive (less than four hours of light physical movement a week).
By the end of the study, almost a quarter of them had developed some form of dementia. Those categorised as having high mental activity were 34 percent less likely to develop dementia in any form (and 46 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s) than those with low mental activity. And those who were physically active were 56 percent less likely to develop any form of dementia.
GIVE UP GIVING UP!
So NOW is the time – whatever your age – to make a change, take up a new hobby or intensify your exercise plan. With Lent falling this week there’s been plenty of talk about ‘giving up’ things. But we prefer thinking of it as ‘taking up’ something. What activity can you add to your weekly routine to make a difference? This doesn’t mean committing to a huge new exercise programme. It might be a trip to a local gallery or dropping into a fitness class. If you add something you love, rather than take something away, it will be easier and more enjoyable.
So this weekend Annabel has booked into a laughter yoga class (she’ll blog about it soon but it sounds HUGE fun) and I’ll be heading to the National Portrait Gallery to catch the new Martin Parr exhibition.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
It’s International Women’s Day today so it seems a good time to share our new ‘author’ pic, taken for the jacket of our book. I’m so happy to have my bright, creative, supportive pal by my side on our Age-Well Project. Committing to staying healthy in middle age in hard and we all need an ‘accountability buddy’ to help us through. Women are so good at supporting one another, so let’s celebrate that today.
And don’t forget that Alzheimer’s is a women’s issue. Women account for two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases. In the over-65 age group 1 in 6 women will develop Alzheimer’s by 2050, the figure is 1 in 11 for men. And the burden of caring falls disproportionally on women, too. You can read our blog post on this here.
We’re beyond thrilled to have been asked to give a Guardian Masterclass on June 11th. We’ll be sharing our top tips on how to live a longer, healthier and happier life: starting right now. And we’ll break down our four cornerstones of healthy ageing, explaining how to put them into practice and stay on track with your own Age-Well Project. You can book tickets here:
Photo by Charlie Hopkinson ©