Unhealthy midlife can lead to dementia: expert

People with obesity or abnormal health examination reports face six times the risk of getting dementia 20 years later, a European expert on the medicine of aging said in Taipei Wednesday.

Jean-Pierre Michel, co-founder of the European Academy of Medicine of Aging (EAMA) and former president of the European Union Geriatric Medicine Society (EUGMS), said that parents should teach their children to have a healthy diet and avoid smoking.

Healthy aging is not only having no illness, but maintaining a good quality of life and functional capacity, said Michel.

Doctors, nurses and social workers should learn the medicine of aging and cooperate with each other to ensure that the elderly can enjoy healthy twilight years, he said.

Japanese scholar Takao Suzuki said at a forum on the medicine of aging that prevention measures are the key for people aged 65-74, in the early stages of old age, because symptoms of being feeble or frail are forks in the road between health and illness.

According to statistics, feeble or frail old people are nearly five times more likely to become disabled than their healthier counterparts, said Suzuki, former head of the Research Institute at Japan’s National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology.

Arranging for old people to participate in cooking courses, and letting them live in an environment with a healthy diet and good exercise and social activities, can prevent or delay the symptoms of feebleness or diseases of the elderly, said Suzuki.

Elderly people’s psychological capacity can decline more severely than their physical ability, so healthcare professionals should also pay attention to old people’s psychological health, said Chen Liang-kung (陳亮恭), director of the Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

According to statistics, among the 150,000 people who die in the world each day, two-thirds of them die of chronic disease, which shows that helping old people to coexist with chronic diseases is important in today’s aging society, said Chen.

Since the immune system weakens with age, contagious diseases become a significant issue for old people, said Chen.

Taiwan became an aging society — defined as people aged 65 or older accounting for at least 7 percent of the population — in 1993, and will become an aged society (14 percent) in 2018 and a super-aged society (20 percent) in 2025, according to a 2014 report on national population by the National Development Council.

Senior citizens will account for 43.2 percent of Taiwanese society by 2061, the report projects.

Taiwan’s dependency ratio — the ratio of those under the age of 15 and over the age of 64 compared to those of working age — will rise to an ominous 0.99:1 in 2061, from 0.35:1 in 2014, according to the report.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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