Preventing Age-Related Diseases is a Shared Responsibility
Great advances have been made in the prevention of infectious diseases, thanks to public health efforts to provide routine vaccinations, clean water and information about risk-lowering behavior. By contrast, we have few effective tools to help prevent the chronic diseases that occur with age.
The most progress has occurred in the area of cardiovascular disease, where preventive medicines like cholesterol-lowering drugs and aspirin have made a difference. But public health efforts to encourage a healthy lifestyle—at present an effective way to prevent age-related diseases—are falling short of their goal. The worldwide epidemic of obesity is clear proof of such continued need.
It is known that we can reduce our risk of heart disease, many types of cancer, dementia, and other age-related illnesses by eating a healthy diet, eating in moderation, staying physically active and getting adequate sleep. But many of us find it very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain healthy behavior throughout our lives. We all need help to age well—and providing this support should be a priority for society.
I see this as a shared responsibility. Industry, academic researchers, healthcare insurers and public health experts all have a vital role to play in developing tools and incentives that will make it easier and more attractive for individuals to make healthy choices, day after day. Collaboration is key and can result in the reduction of healthcare costs, an increase in productivity and an improvement in individuals’ quality of life.
Towards lifelong health
I’m proud to be working for a company that has this vision of a healthier future for all, and is investing in research towards this goal. For example, Johnson & Johnson’s Human Performance Institute is doing ground-breaking work to investigate behavioral change in the direction of lifelong health.
I believe that people will strongly consider healthy behavior and maintain such behavior if they can see for themselves the potential in significantly lowering their risk of illness. That’s why we are collaborating with innovative research groups around the world to find measurable biomarkers of aging and age-related diseases.
We want people to be able to track their health status and risks using a simple and easy test, perhaps like the finger-prick test individuals with diabetes use to monitor their blood glucose levels.
Such tests would not only be a big support for behavioral change, but would also greatly accelerate the development of new preventive solutions, such as a treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Although a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of this terrible illness, more targeted interventions are needed to prevent it in people who are on the path towards dementia, an approach we are taking through public-private partnerships.
The Janssen Prevention Center’s second symposium, The Science of Immorbidity, took place in Amsterdam on October 12, 2017. Learn more about it here.
Posted October 6, 2017