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Healthy into old age
In an interview with “Welt Online”, the President of the World Health Summit, Professor Detlev Ganten, outlined which measures can help people stay fit into old age. A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and sufficient exercise should be mentioned here as well as the general functionality of the national health systems.
The President believes that the World Health Summit should strengthen the individual's responsibility to do justice to the aging population as a result of demographic change. Here, each individual is asked to minimize their individual risk of illness through a healthy lifestyle. In this way, many people could reach old age without suffering from chronic diseases, said Prof. Detlev Ganten.
Demographic change as a challenge for the health system The 71-year-old President of the World Health Summit, Professor Detlev Ganten, explained that demographic change is a "great challenge for science and society". In order for the fact that in 2050 in Germany a third of the population will be over the age of 60 to not become a "considerable financial burden" for the younger generation, health care must guarantee "that everyone who still wants to work in old age should also can work and thus remains an active member of society, ”Prof. Ganten emphasized to“ Welt Online ”. It is already evident today that “70-year-olds are just as capable, willing and willing to work as 50-year-olds once.” The President of the World Health Summit does not only refer to gainful employment, but also to “involvement in a voluntary service” according to the expert, also has an important and valuable meaning.
Responsibility decisive for successful disease prevention In order to counter the impending burdens caused by the shift in the age structure and the associated increase in illnesses, the expert believes that “self-responsibility” in the population is primarily to be strengthened. Because "a conscious lifestyle, a healthy diet and sufficient exercise can prevent illnesses", which means that people remain active even into old age, "explained the expert. However, it is best to start taking the preventive measures yourself as a child. The children would have to be provided with information and support on a healthy lifestyle in order to educate them to be "self-responsible" right from the start. The natural urge to move and the joy of healthy eating are also stimulated, explained Prof. Ganten.
Active and healthy life protects against diseases in old age Overall, a healthy lifestyle can also significantly extend the phase of healthy aging, according to the expert. According to Prof. Ganten, "reliable data" are available that confirm "that someone who lives healthy and actively can avoid some chronic illnesses, push the disease limit and shorten the duration of the illness." For example, "Refraining from smoking protects against lung cancer "Less alcohol prevents liver diseases and regular exercise prevents osteoporosis, muscle tension and back pain," said the President of the World Health Summit. Events such as World Health Day are helpful in this context to draw attention to the topic of personal responsibility. "Too many people are not aware that they cannot claim health from the doctor, but that they can and should do something for it themselves," emphasized the expert, adding: "Health is still the greatest good of man."
Increased risk of illness due to unhealthy living and environmental conditions The President of the World Health Summit also cited the changing living and environmental conditions as a major reason for the increase in various illnesses. "We live in a modern world" and "while only ten percent of the population lived in cities 100 years ago, today it is about 50 percent," explained Prof. Ganten. In 2030, 80 percent of the world's population is expected to live in cities. The numbers show how rapidly and dramatically our environment is changing, while our biology is still old, the President of the World Health Summit continues. Our organism is "evolutionarily and biologically adjusted to physical exertion, exercise, lack of food and hunger", but the framework conditions have changed fundamentally in modern societies, the expert explained. According to Prof. Ganten, "we move little, eat too much, too fat, too sweet and too salty", which "leads to common diseases of civilization such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes".
Prevention instead of treatment of diseases In order to counteract this, not only the self-responsibility of the population has to be strengthened, but also on the part of the service providers and health insurance companies, a rethink is necessary, according to Prof. Weg of the classic treatments after the appearance of symptoms, towards a significantly improved prevention. Too often, the treating physicians are still exclusively disease-oriented and hardly think about prevention. "It does treat diseases, but it is far too rarely prevented," said the President of the World Health Summit. In this context, the behavior of health insurance companies is sometimes incomprehensible. Although there is often a trend towards improving disease prevention, "that health insurance companies, for example, still do not pay for dental care" is "a mistake" in Prof. Ganten's view, because this form of prevention pays off in the long term "Fewer caries diseases and corresponding treatments". In the end, "the health insurers have to pay less" and "the same applies to other preventive measures," emphasized the expert.
German health system exemplary Ultimately, however, the German health system is relatively well positioned in international comparison and offers a lot of support for healthy aging, explained Prof. "We have an excellent system of health care and reimbursement of costs", which is described as exemplary worldwide, emphasized the President of the World Health Summit. Only "there is a need for improvement in prevention", so the expert's restriction. According to Prof. Ganten, “there is still too much smoking, too little exercise and too much alcohol” in Germany - otherwise Germany is “at the forefront” with its health system. However, such a “of course also has its price,” said the expert. This is also one of the main problems with the worldwide implementation of comparable systems. Emerging and developing countries simply cannot afford a correspondingly high standard.
Health care in developing and emerging countries a problem The forecast increase in non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and mental disorders in countries such as India, China and on the African continent is also one of the reasons, according to Prof. Ganten for the annual World Health Day. Because while we are "still quite well in an aging society, world health is deteriorating despite rapid scientific progress," said the President of the World Health Summit. The number of “diabetics alone will double in the emerging countries between 2010 and 2030,” continues Prof. Ganten. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) “therefore want to strengthen health behavior, especially in these countries,” emphasized the expert. Especially since, according to Prof. Ganten, the modern industrialized nations also bear "complicity" in the unhealthy lifestyle in the emerging countries. "We live an unhealthy lifestyle and export it with our products," which makes healthy aging in the emerging countries significantly more difficult, said the expert.
Strength training rejuvenates the muscles In principle, there are various approaches to reduce the risk of illness in old age and to stay fit for longer. For example, US researchers at the MC Master University Medical Center in Hamilton have only recently been able to demonstrate in a study that regular strength training can significantly rejuvenate many muscle groups. "Even people in old age can rejuvenate their muscles by decades," the scientists conclude. As the body ages, the muscles age and dwindle. This is because there is less energy available to the tissue and the mitochondrial output is continuously decreasing. Mitochondria are extremely small cell organelles that provide energy to the muscles. In a research project with 25 otherwise healthy 70-year-old women and men, the researchers found that this process can still be stopped and even reversed in old age. The researchers had the subjects exercise regularly in a gym for six months. Tissue samples were taken before and after the study and compared to a control group of young participants. Exercise improved the muscle strength of older people by 50 percent. For this purpose, the test subjects only had to complete a training program twice a week in which all muscle parts were stimulated.
The result showed that not only the muscles improved but also the performance of the mitochondria during sporting activities. These have "even adjusted to the level of a young person," the scientists at the University Medical Center in Hamilton stated. It can be assumed that sport and a healthy diet can slow down the aging process and significantly extend life. (fp)
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Image: Rainer Sturm / pixelio.de