Edition 1505
15 December 2018
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Portugal’s elderly among most unhealthy in Europe

by TPN/Lusa, in News · 19-07-2018 14:25:00 · 0 Comments

The Portuguese elderly population has low levels of health compared to other European countries, according to “the largest study” on aging in Europe, published this week by the University of Coimbra (UC).

Portugal’s elderly among most unhealthy in Europe

Preliminary results from DO-HEALTH, the largest European study on aging, looking for ways to improve the health of people aged over 70, conclude that “from an initial clinical point of view, 51 percent of the elderly are considered healthy in Switzerland; in Austria, 58 percent; Germany, 38 percent;France, 37 percent; and in Portugal, only 9 percent,” said the UC, in a statement sent to Lusa News Agency on Monday.
Overall, 42 percent of the 2,157 study participants were “considered to be healthy seniors,” according to the same survey, which involved more than 50 researchers from seven university centres in Germany, Austria, France, Portugal and Switzerland. Portuguese participation involved a group of researchers from the University Clinic of Rheumatology of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra (FMUC), led by José António Pereira da Silva.
Researchers from the project, which started in 2012 and is coordinated by Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, a professor at the University of Zurich, consider “healthy seniors to be seniors who do not have chronic diseases and have good physical and mental health.”
Over a three-year clinical trial, participants were asked to complete “three times a week a simple exercise plan at home and take daily vitamin D and/or omega 3 fatty acids and/or a placebo,” to assess the effect of vitamin D, omega 3 and physical exercise on the cognitive and physical health of the elderly.
The data collected will be “analysed in order to determine the effects of these three interventions on five main areas: fracture risk, lower limb muscle function, cognitive function, blood pressure and infection rate,” so that the information obtained makes it possible to design, “strategies that enable older people to live a more active and healthy life,” explained Pereira da Silva.
In terms of Portugal having lower levels of health than those observed in the other six participating centres, the faculty member and researcher of FMUC, quoted by UC, said these results are not “surprising, but worrisome.”
“We have the least healthy elderly at all levels, cognitive and physical. It is undoubtedly a relevant public health problem,” he noted.
Regarding possible causes, although they have yet to be assessed in the study, Pereira da Silva believes that “there is a whole set of social resources that have an effect on the health of the elderly, ranging from the value of pensions to the ease of access to health. There is also one factor that I assume to be very important, which is level of education.”
According to the specialist, on a personal level, “there are some worrying signs in Portugal from the point of view of the health service.”
The quality of the National Health Service, which is internationally recognised, “is excellent compared to the cost it has,” said Pereira da Silva.
“For the poorest people, and many of our seniors are in this group, this movement [towards private healthcare] is pernicious, because most of these people cannot afford private healthcare,” he said.
For the implementation of DO-HEALTH in Portugal, a dedicated centre was created at FMUC, which involved funding by the UC of €200,000, representing in total, with the contribution of the European Union, a budget of more than €800,000, according to the statement, adding that the overall total for DO-HEALTH was €17.6 million.
The UC team, consisting of three nurses, four doctors, two physiotherapists and a pharmacist, recruited and followed 301 elderly people from the region of Coimbra, who had three annual consultations and nine quarterly telephone contacts. 

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Edition 1505
15 December 2018
Edition: 1505

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

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