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Older Adults Need More Healthy Lifestyle Education

According to Aetna Health, a new Canadian study made a disconcerting finding: It is rare for an older adult diagnosed with a chronic disease to change his or her lifestyle habits. It is troubling because, as the study’s authors wrote, “for people with a chronic illness, adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as smoking cessation, increased physical activity, eliminating heavy alcohol consumption and improving diet, can extend longevity ... and enhance quality of life.” 

In the 12-year study, which followed more than 5,000 Canadians aged 50 and older from 1994-1995 to 2006-2007, those diagnosed with diabetes or cancer were the most likely to make behavior changes, although the lifestyle improvements were modest overall.

According to Global News, the study looked at five chronic conditions — heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease and diabetes — which are among the leading causes of death in Canada. Worldwide, these disorders account for 60 per cent of all deaths, but are considered largely preventable with healthier lifestyle habits. 

Prevention is going to be key, said Pamela Ramage-Mortin, one of the study’s researchers, especially because the number of older adults in the population is increasing. She explained to Global News that chronic conditions are more common as people age, and with the baby-boom generation entering retirement age, the proportion of Canadians with such disorders will go up dramatically. "So we know that there are probably going to be a lot more people with chronic conditions living in our community," she said. "I think what this study can demonstrate is there are things we can do individually and ... and as a community to manage these chronic conditions, so that we increase longevity but increase quality of life at the same time and potentially stop these conditions from progressing."

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