Elderly face more health risks, but medical system is addressing that

Cai Wenjun
Senior people, a vulnerable group for chronic diseases, require more care and education, together with a supporting medical system.
Cai Wenjun

Senior people, a vulnerable group for chronic diseases, require more care and education, together with a supporting medical system, medical experts told a health event during the national elderly people's health education week that kicked off on Monday.

About 190 million elderly people in the nation have chronic diseases, while roughly 75 percent of people age 60 or older have at least one chronic disease and 43 percent have over two chronic diseases.

"Health education, vaccination, common and chronic disease prevention and control, as well as proper nutrition, are among major contents of the educational week," said Wang Jianye, director of the National Center for Geratology.

"The average life span keeps rising in China to last year's 78.2 years old. But the longevity is not the pure purpose. A high-quality life and longevity with respect are more important. Elderly people are encouraged to take a more active role in health management and disease prevention while the health service system and grassroots medical facilities should promote education and service," Wang said.

There are about over 264 million people aged 60 or older in China and the figure will rise to 300 million in 2025, covering over 20 percent of the total population. Health management and service on common disease and chronic diseases for the elderly have become an important task of the health authority, which has put disease prevention in a higher position.

Medical experts said proper management is important for chronic disease control and warned elderly people to arouse awareness on infectious diseases.

"Many elderly people's chronic diseases can't be cured but can be stabilized. With the rise of age, the risk for infectious diseases like flu, pneumonia and shingles will rise along with the decrease of immunity," said Dr Liu Xiaohong from Peking Union Medical College Hospital.

"Moreover, elderly also have a risk of malnutrition, which is related with chronic diseases. People with multiple chronic diseases should take various medicines, which can influence appetite, while some diseases like diabetes also can result in abnormal metabolism. So elderly people with chronic disease and malnutrition are more vulnerable to infectious diseases and are likely to suffer more serious symptoms upon infection," Liu said.

"Prevention like vaccination is more important for elderly with multiple chronic diseases," Liu said.

Experts said vaccination on COVID-19, flu, pneumonia and shingles are all effective protection.

Such vaccination and health consultation are all available in grassroots medical facilities, which are promoting general physicians to offer more individualized service to the elderly, health officials said.

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