Research conducted by Flinders University, Adelaide, indicates receiving a full health screening, even when you feel healthy, around the age of 40 helps people make positive changes to their lifestyle when health problems start to set in.
The study of 561 seemingly healthy participants found, on average, five unidentified health problems per person, such as blood pressure or early hearing loss.
Twenty-one of the health domains tested included hearing, memory, lung function, foot sensation, balance, diet and physical activity.
No matter where they were in their life agewise, the 561 participates aged between 40 to 75 years had an average of five health issues.
Flinders Strategic Professor and Chair of Restorative Care in Ageing, Susan Gordon says, “People in their middle years are being sucked into the black hole of ageing.
“Small reversible changes in health are accumulating unnoticed while people are time poor and their lives consumed by work and parenting.
“Often we don't notice the problem until it's too late for the individual to self-manage, and vastly more expensive to address. So even 40 and 50 year olds have unrecognised health issues many of which are amenable to change.“
Those health issues include 30 percent of people with undiagnosed high blood pressure; 32 percent experiencing memory and cognition problems, and 34 percent with undiagnosed functional hearing loss.
Those involved in the health screening received a report about their health with directions to access self-management information to change and improve their health.
The research did have one positive outcome since many of the health conditions were reversible and most participants adopted the health advice and experienced better health six months later.
Professor Gordon says, “This shows that individualised screening and self-management recommendations do improve health, even among people who feel healthy. It also may save lives and money later on.
“Australia needs to move from an over-burdened reactive health system to proactive best health through middle and older life."
Professor Gordon explained the trajectory of ageing through the middles years is known as the ‘black hole’ of ageing since little is known about this period of time in an individuals life.
She suggested an increase in national spending towards the health budget of 1.5 percent to promote health and prevention services.
Professor Gordon suggests, “Individual health screening and self-management should be a cornerstone to empower healthy ageing in Australia and avoid the black hole of middle ageing.”
While an individual’s genes and injuries alter health, there is a level of control gained through lifestyle changes and self-managing health choices, but only if there is knowledge behind what areas of our health are declining.
Many health issues can be reversed or prevented with self-management and directed care.
To access the research results, Health deficits in community dwelling adults aged 40 to 75 years, visit the BMC Geriatrics website.