A Look at How the Environment Impacts Healthy Aging
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A Look at How the Environment Impacts Healthy Aging

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July 6, 2012

In June, NCOA co-sponsored Healthy Environments Across Generations, an event organized by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) to explore scientific evidence confirming that certain early life experiences can influence health later in life. 

Medical research reveals that environmental factors play a major role in the majority of cases of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Diet, exercise, exposure to toxic chemicals and other environmental pollutants, and socioeconomic stress can alter biochemical pathways influencing the risk of these diseases and other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.

A report by Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and Science and Environmental Health Network, Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging, found that this collection of Western chronic diseases is driven by dramatic alterations over the past 50-100 years in the U.S. food supply, a built environment that encourages an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, proliferation of environmental chemicals, and other factors. 

By modifying these factors, the risks for these diseases can be dramatically reduced, and the odds greatly improved for delaying or even preventing disease onset.

According to CHE, these factors include the many levels of the built, food, chemical, psychosocial, and socioeconomic environments, and the practices and policies that promote or impede health at all ages. 

It is little surprise that where and how we live, eat, work, play, and socialize influence our physical and mental health throughout life. 

Learn More

Explore these resources for more information on how the environment can affect healthy aging:

  • Healthy Aging and the Environment: A Pocket Guide is a 16-page illustrated guide to environmental factors that influence health across the lifespan.

  • We are What We Eat, Breathe, and Do is a special report from the Gerontological Society of America’s National Academy on an Aging Society and CHE researchers.

  • Fact Sheets from Environmental Protection Agency Aging Initiative examine the environmental impacts on healthy aging.

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