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HAVE you ever won­dered just how well you are age­ing?

You might think a quick glance in the mir­ror would be a good in­di­ca­tor. But the way we look is only a small part of the pic­ture, ac­cord­ing to re­sults of a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­per­i­ment car­ried out for a new three-part BBC doc­u­men­tary.

Shock­ingly, it re­vealed that many of our bod­ies could be decades “older” than our real age.

In How To Stay Young, pre­sen­ters Dr Chris van Tulleken and An­gela Rip­pon ex­plore con­cerns that poor di­ets, in­ac­tiv­ity and obe­sity mean that many Bri­tons are age­ing “too fast”, rapidly head­ing for long-term ill­ness and an early grave. In the startling se­ries, ex­perts from New­cas­tle Univer­sity In­sti­tute for Age­ing put eight vol­un­teers through a se­ries of 23 tests de­signed to as­sess their body age. Par­tic­i­pants are vis­i­bly shaken when they are told their body is age­ing way faster than it should be. The re­mark­able study was di­rected by the univer­sity’s anti-age­ing ex­pert, Pro­fes­sor Michael Trenell. He ex­plains that hav­ing a body age that is higher than birth age is one rea­son that heart disease, strokes, di­a­betes and other se­ri­ous ill­nesses are oc­cur- ring in pa­tients.

He says: “Age­ing it­self is driven by a lot of dif­fer­ent things. Many peo­ple look well and young. But on the in­side, it’s a dif­fer­ent pic­ture.”

How­ever, there is good news: body age can be brought down – and once the re­sults are in, each par­tic­i­pant is given be­spoke ad­vice on healthy eating, ex­er­cise and life­style to achieve this.

As the show re­veals, small changes and tweaks are enough to “turn back the clock” on age­ing, some­times by more than a decade in just 12 weeks.

Be­fore the start of the show, each vol­un­teer was asked to wear a fit­ness tracker and keep a food diary so that their nor­mal daily ac­tiv­ity and diet could be recorded. In the BBC lab, they un­der­went a bat­tery of health checks, fit­ness and men­tal health tests to help the ever- younger sci­en­tists de­ter­mine their body age.

In the first episode, we meet 51-year-old Pa­trick Luckie, from Es­sex. “He looks slim and fit,” com­ments Van Tulleken.

H o we v e r, NHS worker Pa­trick, who is 1.62m and 63.5kg, ad­mits he is “a junk-food fiend” and reg­u­larly tucks into fried break­fasts, cho­co­late and crisps.

Al­though he is a healthy weight with a BMI of 23, his diet and life­style meant his body age is a shock­ing 73, and fur­ther tests re­veal he is in the early stages of heart disease, putting him at risk of a heart at­tack or stroke.

He said: “Be­cause I don’t put on weight, I thought I was get­ting away with eating what

I like.” Pa­trick con­sumes 4 157 calo­ries on a typ­i­cal day – twice the reco mmended daily amount for a man – and just three por­tions of fruit or veg­eta­bles and 92g of sat­u­rated fat, three times the healthy limit. His 150g daily sugar in­take is five times the sug­gested daily limit, while his choles­terol level is 6.3. Any­thing over five is con­sid­ered a cause for con­cern. His blood pres­sure is higher than it should be. Ul­tra­sound scans of blood ves­sels in his neck show thick­ened ar­ter­ies, a warn­ing sign of heart disease. When told his body is 22 years older than he ac­tu­ally is, Pa­trick ad­mits: “That num­ber re­ally made me think about my fu­ture and where my life is head­ing. It’s dis­ap­point­ing, but it’s bet­ter to know so I can do some­thing about it.”

Pa­trick and the other vol­un­teers in the se­ries are given a 12-week diet and ex­er­cise plan.

Junk food, pota­toes, rice and pasta din­ners are binned and re­placed by a low-car­bo­hy­drate Mediter­ranean diet rich in veg­eta­bles, fruit, whole grains and olive oil, and low in red meat. Break­fast fry-ups are ex­changed for por­ridge oats, and snacks are nuts or whole fruit, the kinds of foods known to lower choles­terol lev­els and re­duce the risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease.

Pota­toes and bread are ditched for beans, pulses and piles of fresh veg. Re­search sug- gests that this sort of healthy eating plan can re­duce chances of an early death by 37%.

Par­tic­i­pants also f ol­low a spe­cially de­signed seven-minute daily home ex­er­cise rou­tine which in­cludes squats, lunges, star jumps, press-ups and some light weight-lift­ing.

Their re­sults are as­tound­ing.

After 12 weeks, Pa­trick has re­duced his daily calo­rie in­take to about 2 900, con­sum­ing six por­tions of veg­eta­bles and fruit a day, and his daily sat­u­rated fat in­take is 29g, the daily rec­om­mended amount.

He has lost 3.6kg and his body fat per­cent­age has fallen from 24% to a trim 17%. His blood pres­sure is down to within the healthy ranges and, most im­por­tantly for Pa­trick, his c hol e s t e r o l level shrunk from 6.3 to 5.1. V a n Tulleken says: “Nor­mally, to see that kind of change we’d need to give peo­ple pills.” “I’m chuffed,” ad­mits Pa­trick. “Cer­tain things are in­evitable with age­ing, but I can af­fect how soon I en­counter those, and some things I can put off maybe in­def­i­nitely.” Van Tulleken said: “Un­like birth age, with ma­jor life­style changes, body age is some­thing we can re­verse within a mat­ter of months.” – Mail On Sun­day

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