Chronic 'time-bomb' diseases are ticking away inside most people older than 65 who are unaware of the danger, a study shows. Yet waiting lists for 1,732 infirmary beds top 6,000 and many patients will die before admission, the first comprehensive study on elderly people's health says. Doctors have called on the Government to set up community chronic-illness clinics to improve preventative medicine and relieve overstretched hospitals. The survey found a third of elderly people suffered from hypertension - triple the rate in Western countries. Doctors were also surprised to discover cholesterol levels were the same as in the United States - much higher than previously thought. Alarmingly, more than 70 per cent of the people surveyed harboured a stomach infection which increased the chances of peptic ulcers and cancer. Nearly one in six elderly had diabetes, although a third were unaware of their condition. And one in four women would have a fracture caused by osteoporosis by the time they were 80. Professor Lam Shiu-kum, head of the University of Hong Kong's Department of Medicine, said most elderly with chronic illnesses were reasonably active, but were sitting on a time-bomb. 'These people can have heart attacks, strokes, fractures and so on, and once this happens they will have to use hospital facilities,' he said. 'Why not prevent that in the first place - that's the issue.' Geriatrician Dr Chu Leung-wing of Queen Mary Hospital said women would spend around half their old age in some state of dependency, men slightly less. 'What we want to do is compress that period. Not only will the elderly and their families be happier, but society, when it thinks about the cost, will be happier too.' Dr Chu attacked health chiefs for failing to provide enough infirmary beds. 'Government provision is certainly unacceptable . . . private homes are totally ill-equipped for the very frail elderly,' he added. On average, an elderly person uses an out-patients' clinic eight times a year and pays six visits to their doctor. More than 67 per cent go to a Western medicine doctor compared with 3.5 per cent who favour a traditional practitioner. The Health of the Elderly in Hong Kong report was a four-year project by the University of Hong Kong's Department of Medicine, the Hong Kong Society for the Aged and the Rotary Club Hong Kong Northwest.