January 3, 2014 10:23 pm

Maybe it’s the midlifers who are selfish

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From Prof Timo Strandberg.

Sir, Herman Lategan (Letters, December 28) considers that Peter Thiel’s wish to live longer is silly and selfish (“People are not trying hard enough”, Lunch with the FT, December 21). However, nonagenarians or centenarians may not be a big problem for societies and their healthcare providers (pension insurance companies excepted). Their health seems to be improving, and when they do get ill they do not linger long in hospital beds. Maybe more selfish are those midlifers and baby-boomers who shun physical activity, get obese and drink too much alcohol; they are and will be the true over-consumers of healthcare resources.

Incidentally, Mr Thiel is – fortunately – not quite right when he states that Alzheimer’s disease (dementia) in individuals of 85 and over is an unresolved problem. In fact, we know a lot about dementia, a geriatric syndrome with cardiovascular dimensions, and its prevention, but this is not rocket science and therefore does not attract media coverage. Mr Thiel mentions sugar but actually dietary salt is a far bigger problem for dementia as it promotes hypertension, with ensuing cerebrovascular disorders and cognitive impairment. Also, saturated fat is probably a more important risk factor than sugar.

In Finland, a multicentre prevention trial (FINGER) is under way, aiming to solve whether it is possible to prevent dementia with mental and physical exercise and a healthy diet. We expect results in 2015 – please keep tuned in.

Timo Strandberg, Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Universities of Helsinki and Oulu, Finland

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