Sunday 18 March 2018

Live longer with Pat Henry: Testing your ageing rate

Pat Henry: lifestyle changes can help us live longer. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan.
Pat Henry: lifestyle changes can help us live longer. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan.

Pat Henry

With so many books on the subject of staying young, it's important to distinguish between fact and fiction. Yes we can live a lot longer with lifestyle changes, although we all know people who live to over 100 who overeat, drink, sometimes smoke. All we can do is be the best we can be. Feeling good at any age should be a target. Dr. Ray Wolford, in his great book, 120 Year Diet: How To Double Your Vital Years gives us a clue of what is happening as we get older and how with slight modifications we can improve our well-being. The following tests are simple and can be a gauge to what's happening to your body as we get older.

1. Skin Elasticity Test: Loss of skin elasticity starts tone, significantly around age 45 and is a result of the underlying deterioration of the connective tissue, such as collagen and elastin, under the skin surface. The loss of skin tone contributes to wrinkling and loose skin around the jowls and neck. To do the test, pinch the skin on the back of your hand between the thumb and forefinger for five seconds. Then time how long it takes to flatten out completely. Average rates per age: 45-50 years - 5 seconds; 60 years - 10-15 seconds; 70 years - 35-55 seconds. Use the test mostly as a gauge to see how you are doing.

2. Falling Ruler Test: This is a test of your reaction time, which falls sharply with age. Slow reaction time is what kills off old animals in the jungle. To do the test, buy an 18-inch wooden ruler. Have someone suspend the ruler by holding it at the top (larger number down) between your fingers. The thumb and middle finger of your right hand should be three-and-a-half inches apart, equidistant from the 18-inch mark on the ruler. The person lets the ruler go without warning and you must catch it between your fingers as quickly as possible. Do this three times and average your score. For instance, if you catch it at the three-inch, six-inch, and six-inch marks, your score is 3 + 6 + 6, divided by three, which equals five. The average score at age 20 is the 11-inch mark, descending to six-inch mark at age 60.

3. Static Balance Test: This is a test of how long you can stand on one leg with your eyes closed before falling over. There is 100pc decline on average from age 20 to age 80. To do the test, stand on a hard surface with feet together. You should be barefoot or wearing an ordinary low-heeled shoe. Close your eyes and lift your foot about six inches off the ground, bending your knee at a 45-degree angle. Stand on your other foot without moving or jiggling it. Have someone time how long you can do with without either opening your eyes or moving your foot to avoid falling over. Do the test three times and take an average. A young person can usually hold a one-legged eyes-closed stance for 30 seconds or more, while an older person usually falls over after a few seconds.

4. Visual Accommodation Test: This test shows why most people are reaching for their half-glasses or bifocals by the time they are 45. With age, the lens of the eye becomes progressively less elastic, resulting in presbyopia, or nearsightedness. While this is not as accurate as a test of visual accommodation as your eye doctor can do, it will give you some idea of the effect of age on your vision. To do the test, slowly bring a newspaper to your eyes until the regular-size letters start to blur. Have someone measure the distance between the eyes and the paper with a ruler. At age 21, this distance will be with four inches; at 30, within five -and-a-half inches; at age 40, nine inches.

These are only guidelines, so check with your physician or trainer to improve on all these tests.

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