Centenarians ‘outliving diseases of old age’


Centenarians have found a way to beat the common diseases of old age, such as cancer and heart disease, research suggests.

The study by King’s College London found they were more likely to die of infections such as pneumonia, unlike younger groups of elderly people.

Researchers said 28% of 100- to 115-year-olds died of “old age” and a fifth of pneumonia. Cancer claimed the lives of fewer than 5% and heart disease fewer than 9%.

The study was based on an analysis of 36,000 death certificates. By comparison, these diseases were the most common reasons for death among the 80- to 84-year-old age group, with cancer responsible for 25% of deaths and heart disease nearly a fifth.

Boost high quality care
Lead researcher Dr Catherine Evans said the findings raised important questions for health and care services.

“Centenarians have outlived death from chronic illness, but they are a group living with increasing frailty and vulnerability to pneumonia and other poor health outcomes.

“We need to plan for healthcare services that meet the ‘hidden needs’ of this group, who may decline rapidly if they succumb to an infection or pneumonia.

“We need to boost high-quality care-home capacity and responsive primary and community health services to enable people to remain in a comfortable, familiar environment in their last months of life.”

The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, said this was going to become even more important as the number of centenarians increased.

According to latest Office for National Statistics data, there are more than 13,000 centenarians living in the UK, but by 2066 that number is expected to increase to more than 500,000.

The researchers pointed out that, in the UK, far fewer very old people ended up dying in care homes compared with other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Finland.

Dr Evans added: “Hospital admission in the last weeks of life accounts for a third of the total cost of end-of-life care per patient.”

Source: BBC news

Better diet tied to higher quality of life in old age

Older adults who follow dietary guidelines tend to have a better quality of life and less trouble getting around and taking care of themselves, according to a new study.

Not many prior studies had tried to tackle that issue, researchers said.

“Our paper showed that maintaining an overall optimal diet quality will be beneficial for preserving the general well-being of older adults,” lead author Bamini Gopinath told Reuters Health in an email.

Gopinath is a senior research fellow with the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research at the University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia.

“Adhering to national dietary guidelines which is typified by high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish could be beneficial in maintaining a good quality of life and functional ability such as shopping, household duties, meal preparation, and taking their own medication,” she said.

Her study included 1,305 men and women age 55 and over that were part of a large Australian study of common eye diseases and general health.

Participants filled out questionnaires about what they ate and how often in 1992 to 1994.
Researchers scored each person’s diet on a scale from 0 to 20 based the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Higher scores indicated better diets.

The one-quarter of participants with the highest-quality diets had scores above 11.1. The one-quarter with the poorest diets scored 8.1 and below, the researchers reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Five and ten years after reporting on their diets, participants completed surveys assessing their quality of life with regard to physical health, mental health, social functioning and vitality. Each area was measured on a scale of 0 to 100.

On average, participants with the highest diet scores also reported a better quality of life.

Physical function was almost six points higher among the healthiest eaters than the least healthy. General health was four points higher among healthy eaters and vitality was five points higher.

However, there were no differences on measures of mental health or social functioning, based on diet.

The researchers also assessed how well people could perform basic and instrumental activities of daily living 10 and 15 years after the diet surveys.

Basic activities include being able to eat, dress and groom without assistance and the ability to walk alone. Instrumental activities include the ability to go shopping, use a telephone, handle money and travel beyond walking distance.

There was no difference in how well people performed basic activities of daily living based on their diets. But participants with the highest diet scores were half as likely to be impaired when it came to instrumental activities compared to those with the worst diets.

The findings don’t prove diet, itself, was responsible for the differences in quality of life and how well people performed daily tasks.

But Gopinath believes they could contribute to the evidence needed to come up with strategies that help an aging population make dietary changes.

“If older adults didn’t make healthy choices when they were younger, they may need to change their habits to get the necessary nutrients for a better quality of life. In fact, many older adults are coming up short, when it comes to essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” Ruth Frechman told Reuters Health in an email.

She is a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and was not involved in the study.

Frechman said people can turn to the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guide for help with healthy eating.

“To reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, half of the grains should be whole grains, such as whole grain pasta, brown rice or oatmeal. It’s also important to include low-fat or fat-free sources of dairy for healthy bones,” she added.

Source: GMA News