An ageing and growing population, with the rise in rates of dementia, diabetes and mental health conditions, has meant that the NHS is having to adapt and change to cope with our changing health needs. While life expectancy is increasing, the number of years that people live in poor health is also increasing.
This shift will likely impact on an already pressured NHS, and there are calls for further investment to help the service deliver the right care. With many conditions being caused by lifestyle choices, could a greater focus on self-care be the answer?
England’s health in 2018
The state of England’s health has been a growing concern due to a population which is not only getting older, but is growing too. The Health Profile for England 2018 reports that the average life expectancy is now 79.6 years for men and 83.2 for women. There are now 2.71 times more 85+ year olds in England than there were in 1971.
While people are living longer, not all of these years are spent in good health. On average, men will spend 16 years of their lives in poor health, and women 19. As the population ages, so does the number of people who develop dementia, which is now the biggest cause of death in women. Other age-related conditions such as vision and hearing loss, joint and muscle problems have also increased.
However, some of the key causes of poor health in later life continue to be lifestyle-related. While the number of smokers has decreased (down from 26% to 19% in six years), there has still been an increase in obesity and diabetes, which can be put down to lifestyle. Almost one in four adults are classed as obese, a trend which Public Health England believe will continue to rise.
Meanwhile, amongst young people, a third of health problems are caused by mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as substance use.
Improving self-care for England’s health
The latest findings have led to officials calling for an increase in funding to help the NHS cope better with the changing health needs of the nation. However, as many causes of ill-health are lifestyle-related, could looking closer to home provide a simpler solution?
Self-care is becoming more and more important, and making changes to your lifestyle now could benefit you as you get older, keeping you strong and healthy. Some of the things you can do to improve your self-care include:
Eating a healthier diet
A balanced diet is a must for giving your body what it needs on a daily basis, as well as helping to keep your weight within a healthy range. Learn more about how calories work to make sure you don’t over/under eat and give your body the right amount of energy.
Drink more water
Water is important for our bodies to function, yet many people don’t drink enough. Aim to drink at least two litres a day and cut back on sugary, calorie-filled drinks,
Get plenty of exercise
Exercise is essential for keeping our bodies strong and helping with weight management. An active lifestyle will benefit you as you age and keep your heart strong. Physical activity guidelines recommend 150 of moderate exercise a week, and strength exercises on two days a week that work all key muscle groups.
Some fresh air will do you good so ensure you get out of the house regularly. Being outdoors can improve your mental health by reducing stress and anxiety too.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep will help your body to recover from the stresses of the day, giving both your body and mind a break. You should be getting 7-9 hours sleep a night so if you’re having problems sleeping, make sure you consult your GP.
Self-care is important, and if you’re worried about your health, make sure you book an appointment with your GP. Make essential lifestyle changes now to boost your overall health and look forward to a happier, healthier lifestyle as you get older.