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Health better than wealth

Elderly Man and Woman on Couch in Nursing Home

Retirement and getting older puts a new angle on talk about ‘sustainability’.  It’s a current buzz word for the financial survival for Governments, businesses and anything else we’re trying to deliver or sell.  As we retire and move beyond 60, we want our income sustainability to match the length of our lifespan.  But what about being healthy enough to enjoy those years?

Wealth is great, but health beats wealth every time.  Are you acting to reduce your risk of poor health equally with efforts to support your retirement income so you can enjoy your wealth and your later years?

A great proportion of the risk of chronic disease and morbidity in later life is lifestyle-related and, as such, can be reduced.

Consider this: one person develops diabetes in Australia every five minutes.

Yes, that was ‘diabetes’. Not ‘dementia’.

Stick with me, there is a link and it is rather alarming.

Around 5% of the population, or 125,000 West Australians, have diabetes. Two thirds are aged 60 years or older.  That’s approximately one in six people over 60 living with a largely preventable disease.

What is the link with dementia, you may ask? Well, twenty percent of people diagnosed with diabetes will also go on to develop dementia.  This means that if you have diabetes your risk of developing dementia is double that of a person without the disease.

Dementia and diabetes are insidious, and neither comes with the possibility of a cure (at least in our lifetime). Consider also that diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia and all of a sudden you have the makings of a health care crisis.

The increasing burden on our aged and health care systems caused by the growth in these two diseases will be exponential unless there is a national focus on reducing the risk of developing either or both of these conditions. The cost of managing diabetes and dementia in Australia is already in the billions of dollars.

So, why does having diabetes increase your risk of developing dementia?

It is thought that diabetes may contribute to the build-up of proteins in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia in Australia.

In addition, high blood glucose levels, and high levels of insulin in the blood, can damage blood vessels and cells in the brain. This damage can contribute to the development of vascular dementia – the second most common type of dementia in Australia.

These two conditions can create a downward spiral. Complications arise when a person with diabetes develops dementia, and begins to have difficulty managing their diabetes care.

Memory problems may interfere with a person’s ability to manage their blood glucose levels. Very low or very high blood glucose levels cause damage to blood vessels and cells that may lead to the development and rapid progression of dementia.

The onset of dementia can complicate the management of many health conditions, not just diabetes, which is why it is so important to speak to your GP sooner rather than later if you are concerned about memory loss in yourself or a family member.

Go ahead, continue to apply yourself to your wealth creation and its sustainability.  But be sure to invest in your health, take it seriously, work for it and enjoy a healthspan that matches your lifespan.

Simple changes you can make to improve your brain health and reduce your risk of developing dementia and Type 2 diabetes:

»   Eat a healthy diet

»   Ensure you get enough sleep

»   Manage stress

»   Increase exercise

»   Reduce alcohol consumption

»   Quit smoking

If you are concerned about diabetes you can contact Diabetes WA on diabeteswa.com.au or 1300 001 880. For information about dementia, please contact Alzheimer’s WA on 1300 66 77 88.

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