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By Clive Lindley-Jones | March 16, 2011 11:53 am

"Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative".
- Maurice Chevalier

Getting Ready for a Greyer World

A recent headline in the New York Times reports 'As the population ages, firms see new markets'. Being a classic baby boomer myself I have mixed feelings about such approaches. On the one hand of course facing up to the fact that we all age is good and, as Maurice Chevalier says, it beats the alternative. According to estimates from the United Nations the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to more than double worldwide, to about 1.5 billion by 2050, from 523 million last year. Very soon the number of people over 65 will outnumber children under 5 for the first time ever. The pressure mounts on us all to mitigate some of the frailties of ageing, for as long as possible, by greater care of our systems.

How MIT’s AGNES Suit Will Help the Future of Ageing: Perhaps one day the enormous financial burden of supporting a vast army of incapacitated elderly people  will drive governments to radical measures such as making a law that everyone who reaches the age of, say, 40, would have to spend one working day in MIT's new AGNES suit to simulate the restrictions on movement and flexibility that ageing usually brings. Then perhaps we might stop and consider greater investment in time and effort to do what we can through exercise and diet to push back the decline of age. Lets hope we all take responsibility, as far as we can, and invest more into our own fitness and health before we are prematurely incapacitated. As Specialist geriatric exercise instructor Jane Taylor said in the Observer recently Why do the elderly allow the NHS to treat them so badly? . She writes "Rather than wiling away anxious years of our lives in NHS waiting areas, or relying on ever-more intricate pharmacological cocktails, we need to fill our retirements with productive, sociable, meaningful activity – the best-value prophylaxis yet invented against an interminable twilight of medical dependency"

Where Do the Most Active People Live? The Centre for disease control in America has a map of where people are most and least active. People in the South and the Appalachian region are the least likely of all Americans to be physically active in their leisure time, the CDC says in a new report. The CDC analyzed all counties in the country and found that in many regions, more than 29% of adults reported getting no physical activity or exercise at all, other than what they might get on the job. States where residents are least likely to be physically active in leisure time are Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In those states, physical inactivity rates are 29.2% or greater for more than 70% of counties. I wonder what we would find in the UK?

While it is great that there are some useful drugs out there to help, as a last resort, we must be doing something wrong when,  in America, half of men, and a third of all women between 65 and 74 had taken  a statin drug in 2005-2008. My guess is the UK figures are not that far behind. Some would see this as a great step forward, and if you are on a statin drug, don't take this the wrong way, but should we really be happy with a society where it becomes the norm for huge numbers of people, especially the older ones, to be habitual drug takers.

Media News

Have you noticed the growing power of the meeting of new media with young technological minds? Of course no one could have foreseen the impact on the middle east of the self immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a frustrated, poverty stricken street vendor on December 17th 2010. However there is also something less dramatic but potentially equally significant in the longer term in some of the new media graphics YouTube - Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four. Small films available on the internet that show, succinctly and impact fully, the  true nature of all those impenetrable statistics. Here is just one clear and user friendly example from the Economist on Women's Economic Opportunities:The Economist - Women's Economic Opportunity Index | JESS3™All around the world we can still see the gap between aspiration and reality.

Personal Tech Playlist - Video Library - The New York Times.

As a newish convert to the wonders of the i-phone, I noticed this little piece from the New York Times. What else can my little gismo do that I don't know about? For me it is a radio, audio player, calendar that, miraculously, I can also, occasionally, make and receive phone calls on. Wonderful!

A child's taste preferences begin at home

Preschool kids know what they like: Salt, sugar and fat

Researchers say, young kids learn quickly what brands deliver the goods.In a study of preschoolers ages 3 to 5, involving two separate experiments, researchers found that salt, sugar and fat are what kids most prefer -- and that these children already could equate their taste preferences to brand-name fast-food and soda products. In a world where salt, sugar and fat have been repeatedly linked to obesity, waiting for children to begin school to learn how to make wise food choices is a poor decision, says T. Bettina Cornwell, of the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business. Children even are turning to condiments to add these flavours -- and with them calories -- to be sure that the foods they eat match their taste preferences.

Book review

A Compromised Generation: The Epidemic of Chronic Illness in America's Children [Paperback] By Beth Lambert with Victoria Kobliner, MS. RD.Forward by Nancy H. O’Hara, MD.

A Compromised Generation

As it says on the cover of this excellent book;“Seemingly benign elements of American culture are making millions of children chronically ill, disabled or dysfunctional. The are being diagnosed with illness such as autism, asthma, allergies, diabetes and ADHD at a breathtaking rate. Research shows that decades of pharmaceutical over-usage, toxic or nutritionally anaemic diets, exposure to environmental toxins certain American habits and lifestyles, and excessive or improperly administered vaccines are at the root of these illnesses.”

Beth Lambert is a healthcare consultant and is executive director of Parents Ending America’s Childhood Epidemic (PEACE) a non profit organisation that educates the public about chronic illnesses affecting children and providing support and solutions for parents and caregivers. She has, therefore, been in a good position to see the epidemic at first hand.

Children will of course, always fall ill, as they always have.  We can be proud of the fact that huge strides have been made in a couple of generations, with the help of modern medicine, health and sanitary practices, nutrition and childhood immunisation programmes, to reduce the threat of truly serious childhood infectious diseases.

What this book does so well and comprehensively, is to uncover the other side of the story of modern paediatrics that I see all too often in practice, that is, as Lambert says, the bad news, that modern medicine, health and sanitation practices, nutrition and childhood immunisation programmes have significantly increased the risk of developing chronic disease.

Whether it be with Asthma where at least 1 in 8, and approximately 1 in 6 African American children suffer from the disease, or the 1 in 7 who are obese, the 2 to 3 out of every 5 children who suffer from hay fever or the now startling 1 in 57 boys (1 in 91 children) who have autism or the 1 in 6 with learning difficulties and the 1 in 10 with dyspraxia. This list of shame will not be too far ahead of our own national statistics.

What Lambert’s book sets out to do is research, understand and prescribe some solutions to this depressing, mountain of misery.

Lambert, outlines five factors she sees as major causative factors for this epidemic that are, in part, amenable to change. These are;

  • Medication over usage
  • Environmental toxins/Pollution
  • Diet/Nutrition
  • Habits and Lifestyles
  • Immunisations and the immunocompromised.

Of course in matters of health and disease, as well as foreign policy, sadly, where America goes the UK, too often follows. While this book focuses solely on the American problem, Lambert is no fool, (she is, after all, a graduate of our own local University, here in Oxford), she fully understands this health epidemic spans beyond the U.S. but, seeing that the U.S. and its unique form of industrial capitalism bears a certain responsibility for leading the world down this path, despite my wishes otherwise, she has kept her focus there.

Lambert is to be congratulated for taking on a difficult subject, full of ‘hot button’ points of conflict and controversy. She avoids a shrill response to the subject, largely letting the documented facts speak for themselves. She uses her meticulously researched and referenced arguments to cogently argue her thesis.

Too often this litany of dysfunction and misery is overlooked, denied or ignored. You will not want to do that.

This clear, rational and compelling  book is well worth the effort for parent or clinicians concerned about the future we are leaving our children and grandchildren.

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