With life expectancy increasing worldwide, a new 'Ageing and Health' (PDF) publication by the Medical Research Council (MRC) highlights groundbreaking work on the ageing process, which could help elderly people not only live longer, but also lead healthier and happier lives.
'Ageing and Health', the first in a new series of booklets about MRC research to improve human health, lays out the causes of age-related disorders such as brain ageing (Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and dementia), cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes and cancer, and describes MRC-funded research that has led to pioneering treatment and prevention.
Key MRC achievements are highlighted in 'Ageing and Health', including the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which gives scientists a window through which they can see inside the living body, and can watch the brain in real time, which is of particular importance for patients with Alzheimer's disease.
The publication also outlines investigations by the MRC into the best ways GPs and other healthcare professionals can improve the care they provide to elderly people on a day-to-day basis. One study has enabled MRC researchers to develop a new test that illustrates the patterns of a person's hearing loss more precisely than previously. This will help doctors to identify when a patient will benefit from a hearing aid and which type of aid to choose.
Colin Blakemore, MRC Chief Executive said: "By 2030 there are likely to be over 1.2 billion people aged over 60 in the world and a large fraction of these people will be over the age of 80. This means that more people than ever will be at risk of developing the degenerative diseases, frailty and dependence that often accompany advanced old age. Research into the implications of an ageing population is crucial if the UK, and indeed the world, is to cope with the burden."
The Medical Research Council was founded in 1913 to tackle the public health menace of tuberculosis. In the last 90 years the MRC has been responsible for many of the most significant developments and achievements in medicine and public health for the UK and the world. Accomplishments include finding the link between smoking and lung cancer; discovering that drugs that lower blood cholesterol (statins) cut the risk of strokes and heart attacks; and, more recently, the development of a new drug that slows the loss of nerve function in early Parkinson's disease by a third compared with the current best treatment.
The 'Ageing and Health' booklet is available online at: http://www.mrc.ac.uk/pdf-ageing_and_health.pdf