Nov 19, 2021 – 08:47
Outgoing minister Blokhuis insists on more investment in a good lifestyle. He states that every year in the Netherlands 35,000 people die from diseases related to lifestyle, such as smoking or being overweight. He is right that investments in lifestyle are necessary to prevent disease. Not only in young people, but also in the elderly.
When we think of prevention, we often think of the prevention of disease, also known as primary prevention. We are familiar with the campaigns aimed at younger people to stop smoking or lose weight. This reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Many elderly people have developed one or more chronic diseases by virtue of their lifestyle and age. For them, the aim of prevention is not to prevent disease. This one has already occurred. The purpose of prevention lies with them on the prevention of exacerbation of the disease, tertiary prevention. Unfortunately, this aspect of prevention is still underexposed. It is known that a healthier lifestyle among the elderly leads to less drug use and hospital admissions. Some patients with diabetes can even stop taking their tablets through dietary changes. Ultimately, the elderly can continue to live at home longer, healthier and more independently.
Various departments in geriatric medicine, such as Care and Treatment for the Elderly (ZBVO), already pay attention to lifestyle and therefore work with a multidisciplinary treatment team, consisting of doctors, physiotherapists and dieticians. This method ensures that the lifestyle of the elderly is taken into account when treating diseases.
Investments in a good lifestyle should therefore also be aimed specifically at the elderly. Not only to prevent death, but to spend the years that people have left with a better quality of life. Exercise, nutrition, little alcohol and not smoking are the cornerstones for this. Hopefully, with his investments in lifestyle, Minister Blokhuis will lay the foundation for the elderly to live longer and independently at home in better health.
Bas ter Brugge is Consultant/AIOS Geriatric Medicine (doctor in training to become a specialist) at ZBVO.