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As Record Numbers of Brits Live to Be 100, We Must Rethink Our Health Plans, Says Expert

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The number of Brits living to be 100 or more shows no sign of slowing. New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that, compared to the previous year, 2022 saw an increase of 3.7% in the number of centenarians (a person aged 100 or more) in England and Wales. The number of UK centenarians has more than doubled since 2002.

Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), clinical lead at London Medical Laborator (LML), says: “More and more of us are living into our second century. That’s good news in many ways, but it does mean that we should be planning for a longer future than we might have anticipated. The increasing chance of a very long life means we may need to rethink our retirement and healthcare provisions. Also, with more people living longer, we all need to act now to ensure that we remain as healthy and mobile as possible to enjoy an active old age.

“Historically, many more women than men live to be 100 or more in the UK. That’s still backed up by the numbers. In mid-2022, there were 12,390 female centenarians in England and Wales, up 3.5% from 2021. However, the number of men living to be 100 or more, while still relatively low (2,730), was 5% up on 2021, and that number is growing fast. The ratio of female to male centenarians has almost halved in the last 20 years. In 2002, there were 8.2 women for every man aged 100 or over, while in 2022, there were 4.5 women for every man.

“Our chances of living to triple digits are actually higher in Wales than in England. Wales had 27 people per 100,000 aged 100 or over, compared with 25 people per 100,000 in England.

“As we might expect, more people living to be 100 means that there is also a record number of Brits living into their 90s. The estimated population of England and Wales aged 90 years and over has also grown to 550,835, its highest-ever total, up from 539,637 in 2021. The 2.1% jump is the biggest increase since 2019.

“Apart from keeping King Charles busy sending out 100th birthday messages, what does this increase mean? Well, it’s great that many people are living longer, but quality of life is as important as quantity. Our body changes significantly as we grow older, and our underlying physiology changes with it.

“The ONS says the reason people are living into their 90s and beyond is because of ‘improved public health and medical advances throughout their lifetimes’. That means living to a good age is not only down to better healthcare and medicine but also improved lifestyle factors.

“It’s up to each of us to ensure we reach our 90s and beyond in as good a shape as we can possibly be. For example, as we grow older, we all need increasing amounts of vitamin B12.  We can get this from meat, fish, poultry, milk, and fortified breakfast cereals. However, the National Institute on Aging cautions that some people over 50 have trouble absorbing the vitamin B12 found naturally in foods. We may need to take supplements and eat foods fortified with this vitamin.

“One way to track our changing needs is by regularly monitoring our health and vitamin levels. A simple finger-prick vitamin B12 blood test can be an ideal way to monitor levels over time, for example, to see if we need added supplements.

“Another key mineral to help ensure better health and mobility as we get older is calcium. Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth, so there are special recommendations for elderly people who are at risk for bone loss. We can get calcium from milk and other dairy products, some forms of tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, soybeans, canned sardines, salmon, and calcium-fortified foods. However, we may also need supplements as we grow older.

“London Medical Laboratory’s own general health profile test gives a comprehensive check of our liver and kidney function, bone health, iron levels, diabetes (HbA1c), and a full cholesterol profile. It’s a useful way to map changing requirements over the years, helping us to live longer, happier, and more active lives, even as we approach our century.”

London Medical Laboratory’s general health profile blood test can be taken at home through the post or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 120 selected pharmacies and health stores. For full details, see here.

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