Home' Scoop : Scoop 72 Winter 2015 Contents 116
And yet, while many of us can look
forward to living longer lives, the ABS figures
are more confronting when reflection turns
to the most frequent – and in many cases,
preventable – causes of death relating to
chronic disease in Australia.
James Eynstone-Hinkins, director
of the Health and Vitals Statistics Unit
at the ABS, says heart disease is the leading
cause of death for Australian men and
women, accounting for 15 per cent (21,513)
of all deaths.
“There were 9864 deaths caused by
dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in 2011,
comprising seven per cent of all deaths,”
he says. “Lung cancer made up six per cent
of all deaths, and 19 per cent of all deaths
from cancer, making it the fourth leading
cause of death for Australians in 2011.”
He says prostate cancer is the fifth most
common cause of death for men, and breast
cancer is the sixth most common cause of
death for women.
Dr Jenny Brockis, Perth brain fitness
specialist and author of Brain Fit!, Brain
Smart and the forthcoming Future Brain,
says relying on research into chronic
disease management isn’t enough, and that
prevention programs are imperative.
“Societal expectation is that we can
enjoy longer, healthier lives through
utilising our new technologies and
treatments,” she says. “While we can
continue to improve how we manage
chronic health morbidity and disability,
unless we adopt a disease prevention/
health promotion approach, the reality of
achieving the former is remote.”
Dr Brockis believes the existing healthcare
system is unsustainable in its current form.
“We have four people of working age to
support every one person over the age of 65,
and this is expected to fall to two people by
2050. Who is going to pay the bills?”
She hopes to see a paradigm change
whereby preventative, personalised medicine
will become the cultural norm. “The
upside is enormous – greater awareness,
understanding and knowledge of what we
as individuals can do to stay fit and well
is empowering and builds the foundation
for a partnership between the client and
practitioners,” she says. “The aim will be
to promote health and wellbeing through
health education, wellness programs and an
integrated approach to extend our ‘health
span’ free from disease and disability.
Live long and prosper
Dr Mei Lon Ng says weight loss is the first step
towards a longer, healthier life.
“Men need to get their abdominal circumference
below 95cm (38 inches) and women 80cm (32 inches)
to lower their ‘toxic fat’,” she says. “There are benefits
from any activity, but the best results will come from
exercising at moderate levels for 30 to 60 minutes
a day and lifting weights twice a week.
“Whilst it is never too late to start, we know that
children who are sedentary, with poor diets, develop
changes in their blood vessels that lead to heart
disease, so start early,” she says.
Dr Ng advises avoiding alcohol where possible,
eating more vegetables than meat, and never smoking.
“If you want to stay well, the answer is not in a pill.”
“Up to 85 per cent
disease and at least
one third of cancer
can be prevented,
so the potential
impact here is huge.”
machine, which remains crucial in open-
heart surgery today.
Many wealthy benefactors – and not just in
the technology industry – have been financing
research into the biology of ageing, not only
to increase life expectancy but also to extend
‘health span’, the number of years we might
be free from frailty and disease.
PayPal co-founder and Facebook’s
first investor, Peter Thiel, 47, contributed
$6 million to Aubrey’s research, and is
a passionate proponent of lifestyle for
longevity. He recently told Bloomberg
Television he takes human growth hormone
and follows a strict Paleo diet, paired with
regular runs and red wine, as part of his
regime to reach 120 years of age.
“You can accept it, you can deny it, or
you can fight it,” Peter says of the ageing
process. “I think our society is dominated
by people who are into denial or acceptance.
I prefer to fight.”
The longevity boom
Australians are now officially among the four
longest living peoples on the planet.
“We’re now among a very rare group of
countries – the others being Switzerland,
Japan and Iceland – where both men and
women can expect to live beyond 80 years,”
says Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
director of demography Denise Carlton.
“Australian women pushed past the 80-year
mark back in 1990, so it’s taken men nearly
a quarter-century to catch up.”
The first person
to live to 150 is
already among us.
FEATURE living longer
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