By Andrew Levy
Health kick: Many opt for a healthier lifestyle as they get older
It is an age when our plans to exercise regularly have usually petered out and our waistlines are expanding.
But this doesn’t mean people have given up wanting to be in good shape when they reach 45.
For many, halfway through their fifth decade is a ‘golden age’ when they try to slow the march of time by cutting out as many health risks as possible.
Confronted with their own mortality as they, or family and friends, have health scares, more than a third opt to limit drinking to three or fewer units a week, according to a study.
A similar proportion avoid processed food, while more than eight in ten eat the recommended five pieces of fruit or veg every day.
Nine in ten are also non-smokers, compared to three-quarters of people under 45, and nearly 40 per cent say they ‘never over-indulge in food or drink at the weekends’, a rule just one in six younger people stick to.
The snapshot of middle-age resolve was gathered in a Health of the Nation study commissioned by new supplements company Bioglan, which questioned 5,000 people aged 16 and over.
It found the age of 45 was linked to a decline in health, with a third of people at that age reporting they suffer joint pain, one in five having high blood pressure, and one in ten experiencing shortness of breath.
At the same time, there was a marked increase in concerns about ailments including heart disease, dementia and stroke, with around half of those midway through their fifth decade fearing for their health.
Almost six in ten of this age group re-evaluated their prospects after suffering a health scare, while four in ten took stock after a family member was taken ill.
Other triggers included performing badly on a medical assessment, or an unflattering comment about their appearance.
The level of concern was higher in over-45s than in over-55s, suggesting a laissez-faire attitude in those approaching retirement – perhaps because they were more set in their ways or they felt they had escaped the health problems that often emerge when middle-age begins.
One 45-year-old who has worked hard at maintaining her fitness is former model Cindy Crawford, combining a high-protein diet with a rigorous exercise regime of pilates, cardio work and yoga.
Young people aged 16-17 recorded the greatest reaction to a celebrity health scare, with one in 11 saying they had been affected by one. This compared to one in 30 over-45s and just one in 83 over-55s.
GP Mary Shelby, who helped analyse the survey, said: ‘In the same way that people in their 20s and 30s don’t worry about a pension plan, similarly they are lax about their health choices.
‘Long-term diseases such as stroke and heart disease seem a long way off but once we hit our 40s these health issues become much more real.’