Here at The Age-Well Project we firmly believe each one of us can change the way we age. That’s why we started our project, after all, and why we’re still at it, nearly five years later! (And why we’ve just been recognised with a nomination for a UK Blog Award – more on that very soon!) Research shows that simple lifestyle tweaks – read on for our latest tips – have a huge impact on our health, reducing our risk of many chronic conditions and diseases.
It seems Health Secretary Matt Hancock is on the same page. In a speech this week he urged us all to take responsibility for our own health. He said, ‘Prevention is about ensuring that people take greater responsibility for managing their own health. It’s about people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking. Making better choices by limiting alcohol, sugar, salt and fat.’
This emphasis on prevention appears to be key to the Government’s ‘vision’ for the future of the NHS. Hancock intimated that there’s likely to be increased spending on prevention, saying, ‘In the UK, we are spending £97bn of public money on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it across the UK. You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up.’ But he didn’t go into detail about how those numbers might ‘stack up’ in the future.
Our responsibility – or the Government’s?
This emphasis on prevention is, of course, music to our age-well ears. But shouldn’t politicians be doing more too? They’re accountable for many of the issues impacting our health: pollution, availability of junk food, alcohol pricing and so on.
Simon Capewell, a professor of Public Health and policy at Liverpool University believes so. He told The Guardian this week, ‘We must recognise the huge power of our lived environment, and avoid naively just focusing on ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘individual choices’. People do not ‘choose’ obesity or diabetes or cancer. They have just been overwhelmed by a toxic environment’.
He did applaud the Government’s track record in getting large numbers of Brits to quit smoking. ‘That success was built not on victim blaming, but on strong tax and regulation policies to reduce the ‘three As’ of tobacco affordability, availability and acceptability.’
Capewell believes ministers need to take similarly tough action now against ‘the production of the commodities which harm people’s health, including junk food, cheap booze and fixed-odds betting terminals’.
What do you think: should we take more responsibility for our own health, or should the Government be more accountable? We think it’s a combination of both. We need the Government to take action, and we need to take action ourselves. Let us know what you think in the comments – and share this post with your friends to find out what they think to!
Every day brings new research and new ways to improve our chances of healthy longevity. This week we’re focussing on:
- Watching the Armistice centenary commemorations I’m filled with brain-boosting gratitude for the many who sacrificed their lives in the First World War.
- So many wonderful, health-promoting vegetables are cheap and plentiful now. We’re stocking up on seasonal leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard, starchy, fibrous roots like swede and parsnips, and prebiotic leeks and onions. Try our kale shakshuka this weekend.
- Make your coffee a dark-roast: research from Toronto published this week revealed that it’s compounds released by roasting coffee beans, rather than caffeine, which protect the brain. So the darker the roast, the more protective the coffee. The same goes for de-caf.
- Even better, have coffee with a friend. The largest, longest, study yet on loneliness has associated the issue with increased dementia risk.
- Yet another reason to love the Mediterranean diet: eating plenty of vegetables and fish has been found to increase levels of a compound, TMAO, which reduces cardiac fibrosis (thickening of the heart). Our winter fish salad combines both.
- Taking advantage of the lighter mornings now the clocks have changed: research published by the University of Bristol this week revealed that ‘larks’ have lower breast cancer risk than ‘night owls’. While the researchers don’t yet know if the correlation is linked to genetic factors or what time you set your alarm for, spending time outside in daylight can only be beneficial to health.