The Healthy Man Study

| July 28, 2009
Healthy Ageing topic of the month

Ageing isn’t simply a matter of time. Long term research conducted in Perth in to the causes of bodily ageing is providing insights for the Healthy Man.

Why is it that we become frail as we age?

There is surprisingly little information about this important subject despite the realisation that Australia’s population is ageing rapidly and that older people are heavy consumers of health resources as well as community supports and residential care. Our increased understanding of the human genome has made us realise that ageing is not pre-programmed but occurs as a results of minor insults which accumulate over time.
These occur at the cellular, organ and whole body levels. As people develop this damage they lose their reserve, so relatively minor problems make them quite sick and disabled. However, other people of the same age, do not necessarily have the same loss of the reserve and are not prone to the same problems. It is important for us to learn what it is different about people which make them age better or more successfully.
Healthy Ageing topic of the monthIn Perth we have been following a group of older men for over a decade.
These men, most of whom are well into their eighties, have given us some surprising insights. For example once you get into your older years, having a body mass index of less than 25 does not seem ideal and being a little overweight (BMI 25-30) may be better for you. However, those men who have a propensity to high sugar and fats in the blood do not do as well. On the other hand smoking remains bad for you at any age. Men who exercise even a little and remain physically active seem to do a lot better. Men who have maintained their testosterone levels seem less prone to depression.
Slowly we are building a picture of those factors that not only allow people to live longer but also a life free of disability and with a better quality of life.
Professor Leon Flicker is Director of the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing.Completing his training in geriatric medicine in Sydney, Newcastle and Melbourne and gaining a PhD at the University of Melbourne, Professor Flicker shows that an Australian education can lead to gaining international recognition as a leader in your field.