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  • Writer's pictureClaire Harrison

Time to concentrate on brain & heart health, not bikini health.

Image: Ryan O'Niel

Professor Cassandra Szoeke, NHMRC Grant Director of the Healthy Ageing Programme, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne sits at the centre of a study looking into women and healthy ageing.

The Women's Healthy Aging Project (WHAP) is a longitudinal study of over 400 Australian-born women, randomly sampled in 1990. The WHAP aims to: identify modifiable mid-life risk factors associated with the development of cognitive decline, improve the understanding of the manner in which dementia develops, and identify potential targets of the disease early on by using clinical biomarkers, and health risk profiles.

Women comprise two-thirds of people living with Dementia. It is their leading cause of death, followed by heart disease and stroke. "The problem is," says Szoeke in an article in The Guardian: “These are not things we think of as women’s health, and maybe that’s why women are dying of them.”

In her new book, Secrets of Women's Healthy Ageing, Szoeke describes revelations gleaned from the study and from a body of research that highlights the importance of exercise, diet, mental stimulation, sleep, social connectedness, and attitude. Most surprising is the discovery that lifestyle habits are just as vital at 80 as they are at 40. Being physically active for example as well as eating healthily is cumulative. Every day counts which means it's never too late to start. And it doesn't matter what form of physical activity you do. It doesn't have to be a high-intensity workout, moving every day is what's important whether it's housework or walking around the block. 15 minutes of physical activity can prolong your life by three years.

But the article says the benefits go further than physical health. For every day of being active, the participants in Szoeke's study were able to remember an extra word on a memory test.

Let's not leave out the food we eat. When it comes to brain and heart health, the foods most common to healthy ageing were vegetables, fruit, fish, and legumes, the worst being processed foods and sugar. One of the most interesting facts that came out of WHAP was the importance of social interaction and feeling that you are making a positive contribution by connecting with other people.

If you're looking to start a healthier, fitter regime whatever your age. We can introduce you to the gentle, 360-degree body workout that comes with Gyrotonic. Gyrotonic is a movement system that is built on the importance of movement and the synergy of mind and body. If you’d like to find out more, why not get in touch.

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