Health problems of elderly linked to lifestyle

Updated: 2013-09-27 01:42

By He Dan (China Daily)

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More than half of China's elderly have health problems and their lifestyles are believed to be a leading contributor, officials and medical experts said on Thursday.

China's population is rapidly aging and the number of citizens older than 60 is expected to reach 202 million by the end of 2013, including 23 million older than 80, said Wu Yushao, vice-president of the China National Committee on Aging.

By then, 37.5 million elderly Chinese, or 19 percent of the senior population, will require daily care because of disabilities.

Only about 40 percent of Chinese people over 60 are considered healthy, compared with 60 percent in developed economies, Wu said, citing 2008 statistics from the World Health Organization.

Tao Guoshu, a retired doctor from the Chinese PLA General Hospital who specialized in geriatrics in Beijing, said cardiovascular disease, cancer and cerebrovascular disease are common among elderly Chinese patients, and about 60 percent of health issues were triggered by unhealthy lifestyles.

High blood pressure, a common complaint among elderly Chinese, is closely related to the dietary habit of eating too much salt, he said.

"People in China lack common sense about health," he said. "There is an urgent need to popularize basic health knowledge and encourage people to improve their way of life in order to further increase the life expectancy in China."

On Thursday, the China National Committee on Aging and the National Health and Family Planning Commission released an instruction book for seniors on how to live healthily.

Wu said the brochure includes 36 suggestions for diet, sports, mental health, health management and social interaction.

Regarding nutrition, the book advises the elderly to eat more fresh food and dairy products and avoid eating leftovers.

Copies of the book will be provided for free in community activity centers for the elderly, universities dedicated for the aged and elderly associations, he said.

He Zhaohua, deputy head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission's family development department, said his ministry has been taking measures to improve the health of the elderly, including providing free health checks since last year for nationals over 65.

"The aging population has imposed huge challenges on the public health services," he said, adding that enabling more seniors to live a healthy lifestyle can prevent disease and enhance their quality of life.