Deanna Wilson edits Women’s Health Today, which is published on behalf of the National Association of Primary Care and distributed through GP surgeries.

Her approach here is evidence based, although often reliant on epidemiological studies, with the pros and cons this involves.

As she explains, ‘For example studies have revealed that vegetarians have lower rates of cancer and heart disease than meat eaters. But is this because they do not eat meat or because they eat more vegetables than the average meat eater? Are other factors at work? The risks for cancer, as for any other disease, are complex and are unlikely to be explained by one factor alone.’

The guide has nine sections ie The truth about ageing; Making the most of our longer lives; Keeping fit for life; Eating for health; Minding the brain; What can we expect at our age; Conditions we can largely avoid or improve; Complementary therapies: the scientific verdict; and Scientists’ top tips for ageing well.

While recognizing the importance of our genes her review of existing research has suggested that disease usually occurs when a combination of inherited genes are triggered by outside factors such as infection, chronic inflammation, or environmental pollutants.

The guide suggests the importance of maintaining our immune system, not least through a good diet and exercise – with exercise suggested as providing a wider range of benefits, including reducing the risk of coronary heart disease; maintaining strength and bone density; regulating our metabolism; reducing depression; and limiting cognitive decline. There’s also a useful summary of the pros and cons of different types of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, from walking to swimming.

We all know from experience the value of a good night’s sleep but the guide reminds us that it is in sleep that our natural killer cells are generated, defending us against viruses, bacteria and even cancer - and provides eight tips for improving our sleep.

The value of fruit and vegetables in an anti-ageing diet is explained, as are specific nutrients for the over 50’s and the importance of a varied diet – but with no evidence noted as yet for vitamin supplements being of value, except in special circumstances.

The scientists’ top tips for ageing well contain few surprises but are nonetheless worth restating ie take more exercise; stop smoking; keep socially and mentally active; drink more water; 10 – 20 minutes of sunshine a day; a balanced diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables; drink alcohol little and often; make your home safe (to reduce the risk of tripping and falling); see your GP, dentist and optician regularly; and try to maintain a positive outlook on life.  

How to Thrive past 55 – edited by Deanna Wilson

(Help the Aged Life Guide 2008 ISBN 978 – 1 84598 –029 0) 

Published 24/01/2011