World Health Day,* celebrated on April 7, marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO), founded in 1948. One key theme of World Health Day for older adults has been that “good health adds life to years.”* When people improve their health they enjoy fuller lives with less health complications, such as pain or disability, and can contribute more to society for a longer time.
James Fries, a Stanford University School of Medicine researcher, is a healthy aging pioneer who first presented the idea of compressed morbidity,* or health span, in an influential article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980. His research helped shift the focus of gerontology to prolonging health rather than delaying death.
Fries believed that if the onset of chronic illnesses can be delayed through preventive medicine and healthy changes in lifestyle, a person’s years of living well can be extended and the years of living with chronic illness, disability or frailty compressed into a shorter period* at the end of life.
This idea offered a new lens through which to look at aging. Many studies since then have confirmed that seniors who lead healthy, active lifestyles can delay the onset and shorten the duration of disability substantially. For example, older adults who didn’t smoke, were lean and exercised regularly had four times less cumulative disability and developed disability eight years later than those who smoked, were overweight and didn’t exercise,* according to a New England Journal of Medicine study.
Eight ways to promote healthy aging
Choosing healthy habits can increase health span and improve quality of life by dramatically lowering the risk of developing the big four major chronic illnesses: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), and respiratory disease,* according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Here are some healthy ways of living that together can have a huge positive impact:
(1) Be physically active each day
(2) Eat healthy foods
(3) Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
(4) Control your blood pressure
(5) Limit alcohol intake
(6) Be a non-smoker and avoid second-hand smoke
(7) Relax and reduce your stress
(8) Have regular medical checkups and screening tests*
A person’s ability to change health habits is closely tied to factors such as social supports, culture and where they live,* according to PHAC. Chartwell Retirement Residences offers a stimulating, supportive environment that makes it easy for residents to remain physically active, socially engaged and enjoy a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. Learn more about the lifestyle in a retirement residence by visiting chartwell.com.
*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:
- World Health Organization. “World Health Day 2019.” (2019), online: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/world-health-day-2019
- World Health Organization. “World Health Day 2019.” (2019), online: http://www.whathealth.com/awareness/event/worldhealthday.html