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New research institute for healthy ageing launched

04/01/21

The Eastern Daily Press has recently published an article on the launch of the our Institute.

Below is an excerpt from the article. For the full text, please click here.

Our life span is increasing – but what about our health span? Launched on November 26, the Norwich Institute of Healthy Ageing (NIHA) is a new research group bringing together scientists, policy makers and the local community to explore how we can live longer, healthier and more satisfying lives.

As a society we are living longer: the average life expectancy in the UK is increasing at a rate of two to three years every decade. Yet our healthy life expectancy – the projected number of remaining years in good health – is not increasing at the same rate.

This discrepancy between our life span and health span has major implications for public health, the economy and our national health service – and is the focus of a new research institute interrogating the science behind how we can lead healthier lives into old age.

Launched on November 26, the Norwich Institute of Healthy Ageing (NIHA) brings together researchers from Norwich Research Park and UEA with Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council, local community groups and commercial partners to investigate the social, cultural, economic, geographical and environmental determinants of behaviours that impact public health.

The new institute will see researchers collaborate on reducing the risk of a range of health issues – from dementia and diabetes to heart disease. They will explore how behaviour changes such as improved nutrition, regular exercise, socialisation and sleep hygiene can lead to better physical and mental health.

Director Professor Anne-Marie Minihane said: “We are living longer than ever before, but we are not necessarily living healthier lives. The average person in the UK spends around 15-20 years living with a clinical diagnosis of a disease, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease. We need to add life to years along with years to life.

“There are many changes that could improve people’s overall wellbeing, physical and mental health and reduce the risk of disease. We will focus on the benefits of health interventions such as stopping smoking, doing more exercise, or eating a more balanced diet.”

Research shows that individuals with poor cardiovascular health – such as those who are overweight, diabetic or have high blood pressure – are at a higher risk of cognitive decline in old age. Clinical trials at NIHA will examine which dietary components and behaviour patterns can help preserve brain function, with a particular focus on omega-3 fatty acids and a Mediterranean-style diet high in oily fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil, but low in red meat. This research will then be used to develop bespoke dietary recommendations for individuals based on their genetic and metabolic profile.