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31 March 2017

We must invest in all aspects of our health — physical, psychological and emotional — if we want to live longer, experts have revealed.

The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has released a new health plan that focuses on prevention, with the message that it’s never too late to turn your life around.

Institute director Professor Tom Marwick said many people felt dissatisfied with their overall wellbeing.

Feeling fatigued, stressed, depressed and being physically inactive were common.

“Many chronic illnesses; being overweight, obese, having Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure, these are diseases of lifestyle,” Prof Marwick said.

“The terrible thing is they a major burden ... and yet these are avoidable.

“The lifestyle things we need to do are things our grandparents knew, but I think in our busy lives that commonsense has got lost.”

The institute’s Professor Garry Jennings said it was through learning about the spiral of disease that people could start to understand how important it was to make the healthy choice the regular one.

Prof Jennings said increased weight gain could lead to blood glucose intolerance, which led to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and abnormal blood fats.

Obesity wasn’t just about not fitting into your old clothes. Excess weight gain triggered a range of immune responses that could damage organs, increase the risk of cancer, damage arteries that led to heart or kidney disease, and increase blood pressure, raising the chance of a stroke.

“Over a lifetime, a person’s wellbeing often takes the shape of a spiral,” Prof Jennings said. “For many people, this is a downward movement, with factors that are small to begin with growing into larger problems.

“However, by adopting some healthy choices and practices, this spiral can be transformed into an upwards-moving one. It’s never too late to take action.”

The new lifestyle plan, released as a book The Baker IDI Wellness Plan, presents the scientific secrets to a long and healthy life.

Lead author Prof Jennings, who is now chief medical adviser at the National Heart Foundation, said different aspects of wellbeing were more important to get on top of at different life stages.

Mental health, substance abuse and risk-taking behaviours were big challenge to wellbeing in adolescence and young adulthood.

Adulthood and its responsibilities were a risky time for poor habits with excess drinking, nutrition, sedentary behaviour, too much stress and too little sleep.

For older adults, wellbeing meant maintaining independence, moving without pain and good cognitive function.

Girls born today will live, on average, into their mid 90s. Boys will typically live to see their 91st birthday.

Prof Marwick said there was more incentive than ever to make sure the one life we got was as healthy as possible.

“Some people say to me; cardiovascular disease is a disease of old age and you have to die of something,” Prof Marwick said. “That’s true, but you don’t have to be sick for the last 20 years of your life.”

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