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In the News

An Ageless Society?

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

The question is no longer whether you will live a long life but whether it will be of health and vitality. The answer is up to you.

Looking good at an advanced age does not necessarily mean living forever. You won't last that long. Certainly, old age without vitality, or a sense of well being is a fear we all harbor. It doesn't have to be so.

Aging, of course, brings its benefits and challenges. First, let's look at the good news.

Aging

Seventy-five years of life expectancy is old news. Trends show significant expansion of the over-age-64 population. Today, this age group represents 33 million people-but by the year 2020 the figure will be closer to 53 million. Right now, more than three million Americans are over age 85. In the year 2020, this population of the chronologically advantaged is expected to more than double to seven million.

These projections have given way to a new perspective; Today, men who reach age 65 and are free of heart disease will achieve age 81; women who reach the age of 50 free from cancer will achieve age 92.

The Challenge

Unfortunately, being chronologically advantaged does not necessarily mean being in good health. In fact, diseases such as Alzheimer's, arthritis and osteoporosis are more prevalent among this population and challenge the traditional medical-care system. As more individuals live longer, there may be fewer health professionals trained to meet their special needs, and the already overburdened medical-care system may become severely strained.

Financial planning (or lack thereof) is now an important health issue. Current estimates indicate that while those over age 65 represent about 13 percent of the total population, they were responsible for about 33 percent of all spending on health last year. What do we do if the dollars are not there to make exceptional medical care available? We need to create a secure, affordable future-one that lets us live a comfortable lifestyle, as well as access to medical care that meets our needs at every age.

The Opportunity

Where does this journey to longer life take us? First, recognize that becoming a member of the chronologically advantaged is not an option-it will happen. Membership in this club is through one of two points of entry:

  • Good health-with a proactive strategy to achieve and maintain it
  • A "whatever happens" mindset, consuming excessive calories and leaving exercise to the video stars.

Science-based studies demonstrate that the results of good nutritional behavior offer exciting opportunities:

  • Reducing the occurrences of infectious diseases in the elderly (potentially cutting the number of sick days by half).
  • Reducing the rate of hip fractures by up to 20 percent – that's 40,000 to 50,000 fewer hip fractures every year in the United States,resulting in an average annual savings of $1.5 to $2.0 billion dollars in medical costs.
  • Delaying the onset of cataracts by ten years,thereby reducing the number of cataract operations by half and saving a large portion of the $3.5 billion spent annually for such operations.
  • Reducing the the incidence of heart disease,currently the leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Reducing the incidence of cancer, currently the second leading cause of death in the United States.

We have an opportunity to create a future of wellness, not dependency. Such an opportunity exists only if we practice a sensible life of caloric restriction, low-fat eating, exercise, and nutritional supplementation.

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