The country’s health watchdog has issued new guidelines on how to improve your health in middle-age, including lifestyle changes that may help reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Draft guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggest the general public needs to be reminded that getting ill or suffering conditions like dementia are not inevitable in old age.
It urges Public Health England, NHS England and the Government to run campaigns highlighting the fact that a few minor adjustments to how people live their day-to-day lives can help to cut the risk of developing these conditions.
“The risk of developing dementia, disability and frailty can be reduced and, for some, it can be prevented altogether or delayed – and the severity of the conditions reduced,” the guidelines say.
“Smoking, lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption, poor diet, and being overweight or obese are risk factors for dementia, disability and frailty.
“The earlier in life that healthy changes are made, the greater the likelihood of reducing the risk of dementia, disability and frailty. But it’s not too late to start making changes if you are already in mid-life.”
Lifestyle changes in middle-age
NICE has recognised that middle-age can often be a transitional period, making it a good time for some people to make changes to their lives that will improve their overall health.
Middle-age can bring some serious disruptions to the normal routine.
Some older people might finally see their children leave the nest, or find they have extra time on their hands due to a welcome retirement.
NICE suggests: “These are times when people may consider adopting new, healthy behaviours”.
It is urging health professionals to recognise when patients are entering into this period of potential disruption and use it to encourage older people to:
- get fitter
- stop smoking (see our Stop Smoking Tips)
- drink less alcohol
- improve their diet
- keep their weight in check (see our Weight Loss Clinic)
Some people in middle-age can allow unhealthy habits into their lifestyle. This increases the chances of developing conditions such as:
- heart disease (see more advice on How to prevent a heart attack)
- diabetes (see Diabetes and Weight Loss)
- erectile dysfunction (see Erectile Dysfunction Causes)
But by taking certain steps, the chances of developing any of the conditions listed are dramatically reduced.
How to start changing your ways
The best way to start getting fit and healthy is to take the first step. Once you’ve committed to change in your mind, the rest should follow.
- Start a diary – Write down all the reasons you want to get fitter. This could include: being able to play more sport; seeing your grandchildren grow up; looking and feeling better.
- Look at your diet – Being more healthy doesn’t mean cutting out everything you enjoy. Take a look at what you eat each week and see if you can cut down on a few of the more unhealthy luxuries.
- Eat smaller portions – We all have eyes bigger than our bellies at some point, but in later-life food can sometimes become too much of a pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Try to reduce what you eat in one sitting – you should find that you still become full, while avoiding that uncomfortable ‘over-full’ feeling.
- Get some running gear – A good pair of trainers will help to motivate you when you are battling with the idea of a run. Having your kit handy whenever you feel like exercising will make it far easier for you to make the right decision.
- Don’t over-do it – Take it slow at first. You don’t need to run five times a week or cut out every little piece of fat and sugar from your diet. By doing that, you only set yourself up to fail. You should also make sure you get a check-up with your GP before starting an exercise programme.
- Experiment with new foods – We all get set in our ways, but with a little bit of digging you will be able to find some great recipes that keep the calories down.
Change can seem daunting sometimes but it can also be invigorating. With just a few alterations to your daily routine you could improve your life immeasurably.