US older folk are sicker, but they live longer than Brits, new survey finds

The elderly in the United States are sicker than older people in the UK, but they also live longer, a new study found.

Americans aged 55 and older suffer from a higher rate of chronic illness, but Brits are more likely to die younger, says research from the US’s RAND Corp.and the Institute for Fiscal Studies in Britain.

olderrunners.jpgThe findings have stirred up the long-standing debate over which country has the better health care system.

Study co-author, James Smith, an economist at RAMD said: “If you get sick at older ages, you will die sooner in England than in the United States. It appears that at least in terms of survival at older ages with chronic disease, the medical system in the United States may be better than the system in England.””

But Americans have to pay fare more than Brits for their healthcare – nearly double, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The most recent data, from 2008. shows that the America spent 16 percent their total expenditure on health, which amounted to $7,538 a person. The average health-care cost per person in OECD member nations is $3,000

Longevity expert Dr. Walter M. Bortz, author of Road Map to 100,” “Living Longer for Dummies” and a new book about health care called “Next Medicine” said: “Americans love to be sick. America is sicker because we love to go to the doctor, but the doctor loves to see us too,” he said. “We spend twice as much as any other country of the world – and we’re not better for it.That’s prolonging dying.”

The research also looked at the results from two studies of aged 50+: the Health and Retirement Survey, which examined more than 20,000 people, and the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing, which covered 12,000 people. They looked at age of death, the ages at which new illnesses developed and the rates of common chronic conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, lung disease and diabetes.

The study published in the journal Demography, found that rates of cancer were more than double for Americans than for the British, 17.9 percent in America compared to 7.8 percent in the UK.  The British had nearly half as many cases of diabetes than the Americans, 10.4 percent compared to 17.2 percent.

Though the death rates were almost the same among American and English people aged 55 to 64, those aged 70 to 80 died earlier in the UK compared to the US. The reearch team said the results showed that Americans lived longer despite being plagued by more disease.

“The differences are striking,” another of the article’s authors, James Banks of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told Reuters. “That’s got to be an important priority for policy in terms of lifestyle or behavioral factors.”

Health care in the UK is provided by the Government-funded National Health System, which has come under fire and has been used as a bad example of a public health-care system by critics of President Obama’s plan.

Smith said the US system is better at treating sick people and prolonging their lives than the British one, even though it is not as good in at preventing them from getting ill.

“We are consecrated to repair in America,” said Bortz. “We should be consecrated to prevention.”

He believes there is a secret to a longer life.

“Aging is no longer an unknown. It comes down to fitness,” said Bortz, who just ran the Boston marathon for his 80th birthday. “Fitness is a 30-year age offset.”

Exercise is the

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London: We are always keen to hear of the latest anti-ageing therapy, machine, pill or surgical intervention. Yet possibly the most effective ‘therapy’ for living longer and healthier and the closest thing we have to an ‘anti-ageing pillÂ’ is regular exercise.

The International Institute for Anti-Ageing exercise expert, Professor Wayne Derman, tells us more.

“There is increasing research that suggests specific forms of exercise training, in appropriate doses (duration, frequency and intensity) can slow and in some cases even reverse the ageing changes in the body. This is particularly relevant to the chronic diseases associated with increasing age.

• In type 2 diabetes (when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin causing blood sugar levels to soar) strength training can improve the sufferer’s sensitivity to insulin, effectively helping to reverse the disease.
• Exercise enhances blood flow to the brain improving cognitive processing, reasoning and memory, as well as enhancing creativity. It is also profoundly antidepressant.
Exercise is such a good anti-ageing intervention because it is effective at various levels in the biological system. Even simple exercises such as walking can have a profound effect on oneÂ’s quality of life as the years add on. Because walking can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that help to keep urine in the bladder, simply walking for 30 minutes a day can reduce a womanÂ’s risk of urinary incontinence by up to 25%.

The key of course, is how much we should exercise for optimal effects and what exercises should we be doing? New guidelines recommend:
• moderately intense cardio-respiratory activity (eg. brisk walking) 30 minutes a day, five days a week. ‘Moderately intense’ means anything that creates a sweat and raises the heart rate.
Or
• vigorously intense cardio-respiratory activity (eg. jogging) 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week. ‘Vigorously intense’ means you can’t carry on a conversation while exercising.
Plus
• Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week. These can be done at home with an elasticised resistance band – an inexpensive and highly effective alternative to conventional weight and exercise equipment and ideal for strength training.

It is always important to remember that if you’ve been sedentary for a long time, are overweight, have a high risk of coronary heart disease or some other chronic health problem, see your doctor for a medical evaluation before beginning a physical activity programme.

Stem cells from dead embryos used to create living tissue

Newcastle: UK scientists have found a way of making living tissue from the cells of dead embryos.

The experiment was carried out at Newcastle University’s Centre for Stem Cell Biology last year and may hold the solution to the ethical dilemma of using embryos created soley stem cell extraction. The embryos used in the experiment died naturally during IVF procedures.

The technique increases the possibility that stem cells can soon be used for the treatment of debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Professor Miodrag Stojkovic, the researcher who carried out the experiments said: “This should get round opposition to stem cell science because live embryos will no longer need to be used in all experiments.”

Stem cells extracted from embryos are prized by scientists because they are capable of turning into any cell or tissue type in the body. Ultimately they could be used as treatments for heart disease and diabetes and other diseases, researchers argue.

But the technology involves creating and destroying living embryos to extract stem cells. Usually these embryos are made at fertility clinics when couples go for in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

However, Stojkovic’s work suggests it may be possible to avoid using live embryos; instead, scientists use those that have died naturally during IVF. It would also mean that many more embryos were available for research and eventual treatment of the diseases, speeding up advancements in the cutting-edge science.

Stojkovic’s experiments were carried out while he was working at the Centre for Stem Cell Biology at Newcastle last year. In a paper, published last week online on the website of the journal Stem Cells, Stojkovic reveals he and his colleagues took 13 embryos, created by IVF. All 13 had stopped developing a few days after conception. ‘They were in a very early stage of development,’ said Stojkovic, now head of Sintocell, the Serbian medical research centre.

The team then waited 24 hours to check that the embryos were no longer dividing before beginning their experiments. ‘These were all deemed to be arrested embryos,’ said Stojkovic. ‘In other words, they were dead. [But] they had the capacity to develop any different type of cell you could think of, including kidney cells, liver cells, and skin cells.’

‘I think this is a very important development, although stem cells created this way should not be seen as an alternative to those made from live embryos. They should be seen as an additional source.’

Last night right-to-life campaigners called for caution. ‘In theory if an embryo is obtained ethically and a stem cell can be derived after that embryo has died naturally, then that will remove all ethical objections as there is no destruction of a living organism,’ said Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, a Catholic campaign group. ‘We do not have objections to the use of donated tissue and organs in other areas of medicine.’

But Quintavalle warned that the case for the use of dead embryo cells had not been proved. ‘There is the critical question of how you know when an embryo is dead or not.’

George Daley, of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, said the paper’s approach raised scientific concerns. ‘If there was something wrong with the embryo that made it arrest, isn’t there something wrong with these cells? We don’t know.’

However, Stojkovic’s work was given strong backing by Donald Landry, at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, who called the work an important addition to the field. ‘Regardless of how you feel about personhood for embryos, if the embryo is dead, then the issue of personhood is resolved,’ Landry said.

‘This then reduces the ethics of human embryonic stem cell generation to the ethics of, say, organ donation. So now you’re really saying, “Can we take live cells from dead embryos the way we take live organs from dead patients?”‘

What they do

· Embryonic stem cells have the ability to develop into any type of cell in the human body, from brain cells to skin and kidney cells.

· By creating cloned embryos of patients, it might one day be possible to grow their stem cells in the laboratory, say scientists. These could use then be used as transplants.

· Diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – in which particular organs or pieces of tissue have been destroyed – are thought to be the best candidates for treatments