Lifespan vs healthspan- how can lifestyle extend healthy years?

A holistic approach to healthy ageing: how can people live longer, healthier lives?

Calder et al., JHND Early View unknown-2

Background

Although lifespan is increasing, there is no evidence to suggest that older people are experiencing better health in their later years than previous generations. Nutrition, at all stages of life, plays an important role in determining health and wellbeing.

Methods

A roundtable meeting of UK experts on nutrition and ageing considered key aspects of the diet–ageing relationship and developed a consensus position on the main priorities for research and public health actions that are required to help people live healthier lives as they age.

Results

The group consensus highlighted the requirement for a life course approach, recognising the multifactorial nature of the impact of ageing. Environmental and lifestyle influences at any life stage are modified by genetic factors and early development. The response to the environment at each stage of life can determine the impact of lifestyle later on. There are no key factors that act in isolation to determine patterns of ageing and it is a combination of environmental and social factors that drives healthy or unhealthy ageing. Too little is known about how contemporary dietary patterns and sedentary lifestyles will impact upon healthy ageing in future generations and this is a priority for future research.

Conclusions

There is good evidence to support change to lifestyle (i.e. diet, nutrition and physical) activity in relation to maintaining or improving body composition, cognitive health and emotional intelligence, immune function and vascular health. Lifestyle change at any stage of life may extend healthy lifespan, although the impact of early changes appears to be greatest.

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