Despite having had direct experience of a serious illness through a relative or friend, the majority of British adults are not taking the necessary steps to reduce their risk of developing one.
That’s the stark message to come out of some new research by Royal London, which found that a lack of knowledge across the country is putting people in the UK at risk at a time when serious illnesses are being increasingly diagnosed.
The research shows that 85% of people in the UK (almost nine out of 10) know someone who has had a positive diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s or a stroke.
However, even though so many people have witnessed the heartache caused by these serious illnesses, 70% have still not taken any preventative steps to reduce their chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, and 58% have done nothing to reduce their chances of having a stroke.
It’s a similar story for other serious illnesses, with 56% of people having done nothing to reduce their risk of cancer and diabetes, and 42% having done nothing to reduce their chances of developing heart disease.
When it comes to reducing the risks of developing serious illnesses, people are least confident about dementia and Alzheimer’s, with 59% admitting that they do not know how they can prevent the diseases or do not believe there is anything they can do. This was followed by cancer (51%), stroke (44%), heart disease (25%) and diabetes (25%).
Worryingly, statistics show that deaths in the UK from dementia and Alzheimer’s rose 16% between 2012 and 2014, and according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the leading cause of death for females in the UK in 2014 was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
In contrast, deaths caused by disease of the circulatory system were down by 4.1% between 2012 and 2014. This tallies with the fact that the Royal London research found that 55% of people were most likely to take steps to reduce their chances of developing heart disease.
Debbie Kennedy, head of protection for Royal London Intermediary, said: “Among other factors, the findings also show a potential link between people taking action against developing illnesses and the instances of these illnesses falling, making a strong case for the nation to start taking some simple steps to lead a healthier lifestyle.”
She added that greater knowledge and understanding of such diseases would help people proactively take steps to reduce their chances of developing them.
The research also found that people are more likely to take preventative steps as they get older, with those aged 55 and over the most likely to have done so.
Commenting on this finding, Trisha Macnair, community doctor at Milford Hospital and Royal Surrey County Hospital, said that younger people tend to put health concerns at the back of their minds because they have “other more exciting things to focus on”.
“Younger people especially tend to feel invincible and don’t want to dwell on health issues or imagine they might one day develop a chronic illness,” she added.
Research shows it is very important to take care of your health and wellbeing whatever age. If we start living a healthy lifestyle when we are young it just becomes a way of life and will help us to enjoy a long and healthy life.
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