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Secret to old age nothing to do with lifestyle??

I’m sorry, but I have to get this off my chest. I came across some incredibly irresponsible and short-sighted ‘journalism’ today (Thurs may 20th, 2010) in Adelaide’s The Advertiser. On page 3 of the ‘news’paper the first paragraph of the centre story states that “the secret to old age could have nothing to do with lifestyle and everything to do with genes.” the rest of the story goes on to celebrate a lady who has just had her 101st birthday (a very happy birthday and congratulations to her!), and to report that scientists have identified the “Methuselah genes”, named after the oldest person in the Bible, who lived to be 969.

I guess that perhaps our public is not confused enough about what to believe about their health, so we might as well tell them now that they don’t have to do anything at all! its all out of their control!! after all, these genes are found in only 10% of young people, and in 30% of centenarians – what more evidence do we need for crying out loud!!! and we have all heard of someone who was a fit marathon runner and died of a heart attack! and better still, we all have an uncle Albert who drinks and smokes a pack a day and just turned 92, don’t we?!

Well, I guess this begs the question: how did the other 70% get to be centenarians?? why is it that the highest concentration of centenarians occurs in non-developed Western countries/regions? could it also be that Methuselah’s contemporaries (and she would have had a few!) got to live as long as they did because they weren’t exposed to the stresses of modern western environments, or the processed foods, or the degrees of sedentary behaviour our communities experience? could it be that they experienced a degree of spiritual health not found in our society? could it be that perhaps their lifestyle had something to do with it? Have we wondered why most (if not all) centenarians are thin? maybe its because their overweight counterparts don’t get to live that long?? or wait, maybe its just genetics that keep them thin!! because in the absence of any real genetic shift in humans for thousands of years, our genetic pool has suddenly altered in the last 6 or 7 decades.

My goodness, I hope you excuse my sarcasm, but a pen (or press) can be a very powerful weapon, and we should’t be handing licenses to use them publicly so easily.

where should the money go?? anti-smoking, alcohol, or into physical activity??

just saw the new Australian anti-smoking campaign on TV “Path2Quit”, check it out at www.path2quit.com.au
Firstly, great campaign. simple and to the point. and needed, as we know that as a smoker you will lose, on average, 8 years of healthy life. At face value, it seems that investing heavily in the reduction of community wide smoking is a valid strategy as this is the lifestyle behaviour with the largest effect.

However, Physical inactivity is also a major player, with those that are generally inactive will lose an average of 6.5 years of healthy life.

There is a very interesting factor that is missing from this comparison however, and that is that more than twice as many Australians over the age of 14 years are inactive (7.3M) compared to the number of smokers in this age bracket (2.9M). If we do the sums, smoking Australians will collectively lose 23million years of healthy life… yes, you read that right! but inactive australians will lose 48million years of healthy life…

I wonder if we are investing twice the resources and legislative power to increasing the physical activity levels in this great country….?

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