Lang mae yer lums reek: Resolutions for 2019

Of course, New Year is a popular time for turning over a new leaf and setting some personal goals. Have you set any 2019 resolutions?


Last year, I explained the meaning of the traditional Scottish New Year greeting, lang may yer lums reek.

Of course, New Year is a popular time for turning over a new leaf and setting some personal goals. Have you set any 2019 resolutions? A couple of years ago, I started running – or at least trying to run. I was increasingly living my life out of a suitcase. As my opportunities to go cycling or gardening (my preferred ways of burning calories) became rarer and rarer, so my clothes were telling me that something had to give. I needed a more practical way of getting regular exercise to keep the pounds off my waistline. So my running shoes now travel everywhere with me, and my “watch” not only records every step, but every heart beat. Despite reckoning I was a reasonably fit cyclist, I found the transition from cyclist to runner slow and painful, but I gradually gained more stamina and endurance.

In April, I managed to run my first marathon on a very warm spring day in Paris. I can thoroughly recommend the amazing feeling on the finishing line.  Next April, I hope to complete an ultramarathon: trying to cover a 53 mile section of the West Highland Way in under 13 hours. To have a decent chance of making the cut-offs, I really could do with shedding some baggage (my BMI score places me in the overweight zone), but I find that the hardest thing to do, with no shortage of temptation around me.

More sticks than carrots ….

Reading the excellent annual report of the Chief Medical Officer of England & Wales (Dame Sally Davies), I am far from alone. A staggering two-thirds of men and six in ten women are overweight or obese; a substantial gain over the course of a generation. After several years of “could do better” report cards, the headmistress of health is recommending more stick than carrot to drive home the “prevention is better than cure” message. As you were chewing your turkey, you may have heard the calls for tougher regulation of unhealthy foods, adding to the tax on sugary drinks that was introduced in 2018. Today there is even talk of calorie limits on ready meals and restaurant portions.   

The long-term consequences of carrying too much baggage

Of course, obesity – or a sedentary lifestyle - is linked to several health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, strokes and cancer. The bittersweet consequence of more of us surviving to older ages is that a greater proportion of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives. The BBC recently reported that whilst cancer survival rates continue to improve, the UK still lags other countries, highlighting the potential for improved performance from measures that already exist.        

Richard Oakley of Cancer Research pointed out, when he spoke at Club Vita’s 10th birthday seminar, that the later presentation of symptoms was part of the problem, suspecting many Brits did not want to be a nuisance to the NHS. However, the BBC article notes that “GPs refer nearly two million patients a year for urgent tests and scans - nearly four times the number they did over a decade ago. But the rise in referrals has coincided with long waiting times, with the NHS now struggling to meet its targets”. So it appears that it’s not just the British stiff upper lip, but also the capacity of the NHS not keeping up with the demands of our ageing society. 

Remember, we’re still healthier than previous generations

Reading these sobering reports may leave you quite gloomy. So, to cheer you up, please note that across all ages we are actually healthier today than people of the same age in 1990, particularly so for older people (see Figure 3 of Chapter 3 of Public Health England’s excellent Health profile for England: 2018).

And managers of pension promises should note that both Public Health England and Cancer Research are now setting long-term targets for improving outcomes.  

Club Vita’s resolutions for 2019

At Club Vita, we hosted four webinars in 2018 (on Longevity Black Swans, Genomics, Climate Change and health, and index-based longevity trading). These were something of an experiment, but we have been delighted by both the size of the audience and our growing international following. We are encouraged to do more in 2019. Our experts have been publishing regular Top Charts, as we know how popular charts are with you. We’ve also been sharing links to similar reports to those in this blog in our Friends of Club Vita discussion group on LinkedIn. We resolve to build on these initiatives in 2019. We are planning webinars on diabetes, dementia and one to reveal our latest research on the effectiveness of index-based longevity hedges for pension funds.          

Are there any particular topics that you like us to cover?                  

With best wishes for a healthy and successful 2019,

Lang mae yer lums reek.

Douglas 

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