Our lifespans are increasing – but what about our health spans? Launched on November 26th, the Norwich Institute of Healthy Aging (NIHA) is a new research group that brings together scientists, policy makers and the local community to find out how we can live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Professor Anne-Marie Minihane, Director of the Norwich Institute of Healthy Aging
– Photo credit: UEA / Henry Iddon
We live longer as a society: the average life expectancy in the UK is increasing by two to three years every decade. However, our healthy life expectancy – the projected number of years remaining in good health – is not increasing in proportion.
This gap between our lifespans and health spans has a significant impact on public health, the economy, and our national health systems – and is at the heart of a new research institute that questions the science of how we can live healthier lives well into old age.
Founded Nov. 26, the Norwich Institute of Healthy Aging (NIHA) brings researchers from Norwich Research Park and UEA together with Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council, local community groups and trade partners to explore the social, cultural, economic, geographic and environmental aspects to study determinants of behavior that have an impact on public health.
In the new institute, researchers will work together to reduce the risk of a range of health problems – from dementia and diabetes to heart disease. You will examine how behavior changes such as improved diet, regular exercise, socialization, and sleep hygiene can lead to better physical and mental health.
Director Professor Anne-Marie Minihane said: “We are living longer than ever before, but we are not necessarily living healthier lives. The average person in the UK lives for about 15 to 20 years with a clinical diagnosis of a disease such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease. We have to add life to the years and life to the years.
“There are many changes that could improve people’s general well-being, physical and mental health, and reduce the risk of disease. We will focus on the benefits of health interventions, e.g. For example, stop smoking, do more sport or eat a more balanced diet. ”
Research shows that people with poor cardiovascular health – such as those with obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure – are at greater risk of cognitive decline in old age. Clinical studies at the NIHA are investigating which food components and behavioral patterns can contribute to the maintenance of brain function, with a special focus on omega-3 fatty acids and a Mediterranean diet high in oily fish, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil . but little red meat. This research is then used to develop tailored dietary recommendations for individuals based on their genetic and metabolic profile.
If these strategies are implemented now, future generations of older people will stay healthier longer and delayed disease outbreaks will result in significant social and economic benefits. In the UK, the average annual health care cost per person is now £ 2,424. It is predicted that an investment of £ 1,000 per person in adopting healthy mid-life behaviors has the potential to save £ 10,000 in healthcare costs later.
Our current development will not be sustainable for the NHS and the provision of social benefits. Hence, a proactive focus on prevention and healthy aging is needed to ensure a better quality of life for ourselves while reducing the burden on public services.
With its world-class research center at Norwich Research Park and an aging population (25 percent of the Norfolk population are over 65 years old), Norwich is the perfect setting to conduct scientific research in this important area. The NIHA aims to bring its research to the community, develop groundbreaking interventions, and promote healthy behavior in sustainable and integrated ways to promote wellbeing in East Anglia and beyond.
Professor Minihane adds: “It is important that we prioritize, plan and produce research with local communities and local authorities, trading partners and policy makers – to ensure that our research leads to real change for better local and broader public health. ”
Adam Clark, Strategy Manager at Norwich City Council, said: “For many, Norwich is a beautiful city with a high quality of life. However, there are significant differences in health and life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas. Norwich City Council is excited to work with the UEA, through the Norwich Institute of Healthy Aging, to understand how we as a society can fill this gap and improve the wellbeing of all. ”
Please visit healthageingnorwich.com for more information