Will your child’s life expectancy reach 150 in the future?

A young boy eating strawberries from a bowl
Healthy eating is key to a long and healthy life, along with exercise and plenty of rest Credit: JOSE LUIS PELAEZ

Medical advances can only go so far in extending the lives of future generations. The part that’s in our own hands – and possibly the most important factor – is maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

According to recent headlines, young people alive today could live to 150. How? It’s thought that new medical technology and drugs, combined – and this is the important bit – with lifestyle changes could see our children avoid a lot of the chronic conditions that currently carry us off.

“A lot of technology and pharmaceutical development has focused around keeping people alive. But being healthy is paramount,” says Mark Aloia, Philips’ global head of health behaviour change. “Exercise, nutrition, sleep and stress management are critical.”

So what are our children doing differently, and what should they be doing, if they want to hit the magic century-and-a-half?

Not smoking

Increasingly, kids understand that smoking is not cool – just damaging (and expensive). It hugely raises the risk of cancer, heart and respiratory disease. Thankfully, 2014 figures found the lowest level of smoking among secondary pupils – 18 per cent – since surveys began in 1982.    

Eating better

A healthy diet includes oily fish (sardines on toast are great), nuts, green veg and whole grains. Social media is certainly promoting this message, and if it catches on our children could live longer.

Cutting down on fatty foods is an absolute must Credit: PEOPLEIMAGES.COM

They’re not starting from a great place, however: too much food consumed in the UK has high levels of salt, sugar and saturated fats – all of which encourage obesity plus other serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Meanwhile, average ready-meal sizes in supermarkets have increased by 50-100 per cent in the past two decades. Much can be done to make the next generation healthier.

Sleeping more

“Sleep is as vital for survival as food and water,” says Philips’ clinical services manager Anwen Evans. “In our rush to meet the demands of work and family, social lives and household tasks, we incur sleep debt exactly as you would incur financial debt.” Poor sleep is linked with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and strokes. Tell kids: don’t skip those ZZZs.

Keeping tabs

For pioneering companies such as Philips, technology is a vital enabler to help people look after their health. Take the Philips Health Watch – part of its health programs range. This medical device measures your heart rate, respiration, sleep, activity and other vital signs, then analyses the data in an easy-to-use dashboard and presents insights and advice to motivate individuals to take better control of their health. Similar apps and gadgets are starting to become common.

Monitor sleep patterns and more with the Philips Health Watch

Such connected health devices “help people take action to make small changes in their habits which could have a big impact on their overall health and lifestyle in the future”, says Nikos Anastasopoulos, business development director for personal health at Philips.

Being body-conscious

Being overweight is linked to diabetes, heart and respiratory issues, plus poor sleep and fatigue. Add low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and it’s no surprise that those with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, the official definition of obesity, have lives that are 10 years shorter.

So caring about your weight should add years to life. Is it happening? Perhaps, gradually. In 2015, 19 per cent of Britain’s 10- to 11-year-olds were obese and a further 14.2 per cent were overweight (BMI 25-30). That is, at least, a little better than the adults – around a quarter of whom were obese, up from around 13 per cent in 1993.

An important message for kids is to forget the “perfect” bods on Instagram and in magazines. Those pictures are often digitally enhanced, and being too thin is as unhealthy as being too fat. Aim for a BMI of between 18.5 and 25 – you can check yours at nhs.uk.

Being active

Physical activity reduces your risk of heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure, plus it can improve your mental health. But that doesn’t mean expensive gyms. Just do at least 30 minutes’ daily activity that gets you out of breath.

Children can be guided to better health by being encouraged to take up exercise Credit: HYBRID IMAGES

A 2009 study found only 30 per cent of 19-year-olds hit this activity target three times a week or more – but that is at least more than the adults manage. (A 2013 study found that 80 per cent of UK adults failed to do this sort of exercise at least 12 times a month.) To get this trend going in the right direction, work needs to be done.

Not drinking alcohol

Over-indulging on booze not only causes ill-health but has strong links to crime among young people. Thankfully, the percentage of secondary pupils drinking alcohol in 2014 was 38 per cent – the lowest proportion since surveys began in the 1980s.

So the overall picture? Some good news, plus some areas where lifestyles still need work if young folk today want to make that 150 Club.  After all, there’s only so much technology can do.

To find out how Philips personal health programs can help you live longer, healther lives go to philips.com/healthprograms