Achieving the Singapore 1000 & Singapore SME 1000 Award
Force 21 is honoured to receive the Singapore…25 August 2020
As medical technology advances and gets increasingly accessible, worldwide life expectancy has likewise been steadily increasing. In Singapore, life expectancy now stands at 80.7 years for men and 85.2 years for women.
Extrapolating from current data, Singapore will be an aged society by 2023, according to the World Health’s Organisation’s definition (14% of residents over 65 years of age). Since age is a major risk factor for noncommunicable chronic diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancer, it makes us wonder how we can sustainably manage an ageing population, on a national as well as individual level.
With that said, accumulated research has shown that these ailments are simply consequences of unhealthy lifestyles, and are not a normal function of ageing. This was reflected by the increasing prevalence of many of these conditions occurring at younger ages.
Increasing our health spans proportionately to the increase in our lifespans can help to alleviate dramatic increases in personal and national healthcare costs and maintain our quality of life even at an old age. Singapore’s efforts in health promotion and disease prevention among older people and the elderly are hence critical in determining our success in sustaining an ageing population.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Our lifestyle, especially our diets and levels of physical activity, play a pivotal role in determining how healthily we age. There are many ways we can start incorporating disease prevention into our lifestyles. So we will be reviewing the three main categories – primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention –and analyzing how it affects each prevention type can aid us in aging healthily.
Primary prevention aims to prevent diseases or other health-related issues before they manage to occur. This is done mainly through altering unhealthy behaviours that can lead to health complications, thus reducing the risk of contracting said health problems. Modifying our lifestyles can help us reap the optimal benefits of disease prevention and achieve successful ageing.
A major part of primary prevention and healthy ageing involves maintaining a healthy, balanced diet through the consumption of nutrient-dense foods. As we age, our metabolism slows down and we require less energy from food, yet our nutritional needs may increase due to ageing-related inefficiencies in absorption and utilisation of essential nutrients
Under nutrition has shown to be a key contributor to the occurrence of many NCDs, with specific deficiencies giving rise to certain ailments. For instance, vitamin and mineral deficiency can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancers, while calcium deficiency can increase the risk of osteoporosis, and fiber deficiency can increase the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, we tend to consume other nutrients, such as saturated fat from fatty meats, processed meat, and whole-fat dairy products, refined carbohydrates from soft drinks, white bread and white rice, and sodium in canned and processed food, in excess. Overconsumption of these nutrients contributes to over nutrition, increasing the risk of obesity and chronic conditions.
In a global study published in May 2019, it was reported that dietary risks were responsible for approximately 22% of all deaths among adults, with cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of diet-related deaths. It is therefore imperative for us to pay attention to our diets. Singapore’s Health Promotion Board has provided a simple nutrition guide for healthy ageing. Below are a few key takeaways from their guide:
Beyond our diets, regular physical activity is imperative to healthy ageing as well. Research shows that regular physical activity lowers the risks of developing major cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, obesity, muscular weakness and other NCDs. For senior citizens who struggle with exerting themselves physically, even simple activities such as low-intensity walking can help dramatically lower the risks of falls and developing NCDs if done regularly.
Despite overwhelming evidence for the pivotal role of physical activity in reducing risk of chronic disease and death, only a small proportion of older adults exercise regularly and with enough intensity, duration and frequency to translate into tangible benefits for disease prevention. Additionally, physical inactivity is especially commonplace in highly developed countries like Singapore
Secondary prevention involves efforts to detect adverse health problems in their premature stages to reduce their negative impacts and halt or slow their progress through prompt and effective intervention.
This includes health assessments such as blood pressure tests, bone density tests and measuring one’s body mass index. In Singapore, efforts to improve early detection of chronic conditions include the highly affordable and accessible “Check Your Health” community health screening programme which is conducted at neighbourhood venues on weekends.
Comprehensive programms for chronic disease care have also been established to provide holistic and personalised evidence-based treatment for early-stage sufferers or at-risk patients at government-subsidised polyclinics.
Tertiary prevention aims to reduce the duration and severity of an ongoing illness, minimising complications and assisting the individual in adjusting to irremediable conditions to improve their ability to function, enjoy their existing quality of life and extend life expectancy.
Similar to secondary prevention efforts, the Singapore government has also established care programmes and plans for sufferers of diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, end-stage renal failure and myopia
FiTSA strongly believes that primary prevention is the most crucial aspect of successful and healthy ageing. Hence, we put great emphasis on primary prevention measures through community efforts that target the elderly.
Through our community efforts, we create awareness on the importance of a healthy diet and active living. We conduct group exercise classes for the elderly comprising of aerobic activities, strength, balance and flexibility exercises and functional exercises. We also equip our participants with basic knowledge of nutrition, and knowledge to design a simple exercise and nutrition plan for themselves