Healthy choices for the over 40s

A recent report from Public Health England warned that middle-aged people in England face a health crisis because of their unhealthy lifestyles. Apparently 8 in every 10 people aged 40 to 60 years are overweight, drink too much or get too little exercise.

The world has changed so much in just a few decades and now desk jobs, fast food and the drinking culture have resulted in a generation that is unfit and largely overweight.

Those of us who are in our 40s and 50s are advised to look after ourselves, though it has been acknowledged that this may prove difficult when caring for children and ageing parents often takes priority. In addition, accessing healthy choices is not always easy, since we are surrounded by cheap, over-processed, high calorie, nutrient-poor food. 

Many people no longer recognise what a healthy body weight looks like and obesity is increasingly considered ‘normal’. A recent survey into British attitudes towards obesity (www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk) found that people could not correctly identify obesity in a series of pictures of men and women – only 54% correctly identified when a woman is obese and 39% correctly identified when a man is obese. This is concerning because obesity is recognised as a contributory factor to many diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. The survey found that while there was some understanding of the health risks associated with obesity, with over 80% of people understanding that people who are obese are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, only 34% understood that there is an increased risk of liver disease.

Since we are all living longer, we want those years to be as happy and healthy as possible. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may also prevent dementia, disability and stigmatisation. People who are obese are still stigmatised, with 53% agreeing that “most overweight people could lose weight if they tried” and 75% believing that a person who is not very overweight would be more likely to be offered an office manager’s job than a person who is very overweight.

So, when faced with the daily grind of modern life what sort of choices could make the over-40s fitter, healthier and more energetic?

A recent study (National weight control registry) found that adults who have successfully lost weight and maintained their weight loss used a few tried and true methods:

  • 98% modified their eating habits
  • 94% increased their level of physical activity, especially walking
  • 78% had a healthy breakfast everyday
  • 75% weighed themselves at least once a week
  • 62% watched less than 10 hours of television per week

If we take personal responsibility for our health we can start living a healthier life. Take steps today to make changes that will help you to avoid preventable diseases and disabilities, like poor mobility.

The government and industry have a role to play in making healthy choices more accessible but the scale of the changes required means that they may take years to plan and implement. Plans to develop healthier food products and a healthier environment, including urban planning, food systems, agriculture, economics, governance and politics, law, business, marketing and communication, may take years to come to fruition. If we wait for government and industry to make a difference to our health we will all be storing up health problems and the future will be upon us long before we are ready for it.

Since the government and industry won’t act quickly enough to help the over-40s it is time to take personal responsibility and commit to a healthier future. Individuals and healthcare professionals can immediately start to expose and challenge unhealthy working environments, social and dietary habits rather than accept them as an inevitable part of modern life.

So start 2017 with a focus on making healthy choices that will have happy consequences for you and your family in the longer term.

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health.

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