It's only fair to share…

Last month saw the passing of Queen Elizabeth II at age 96. For many (myself included) she was on the throne before we were born and is the only British monarch we have ever known.  It is estimated that only 14% of the current Australian population was alive when she ascended to the throne.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating (a republican) said in a statement that she was “an exemplar of public leadership” and that “With her passing her example of public service remains with us as a lesson in dedication to a lifelong mission in what she saw as the value of what is both enduringly good and right”.

Sadly, these words could not be written about any current world leader.

From a health perspective, the question always arises as to why do some live a long health life? The nature versus nurture debate rages and it is certain, in my opinion, that both play a role. The late Queen’s mother lived to over 100 so genetics is a factor, but her sister died age 71 so there is more to it.

Some will say that wealth plays a part. It is true that the royal family can access the best medical care. However, not all who are wealthy live a long life. The late Kerry Packer and Robert Holmes a Court being examples.

It is certainly the case that our genetics are what we start with. However, after that, it is what we do with them. Cars will perform better for longer if the right fuel is put in the tank, tyres pumped to the tight pressure, coolant maintained, not “thrashed” and kept in a reasonably protected place (garage or driveway).

The human body will perform better for longer if we put the right foods into it, stay hydrated, get regular physical activity, adequate sleep and manage our stress. This does not guarantee we will live to 96 or beyond but increase the likelihood.

These are all pillars of health.  They do not require medical intervention nor government involvement. Maintaining our bodies is within our control. The choices we make matter and are ours.

There are two aspects of health that receive little airplay as there are no pills and no government funded programs. These are relationships and enjoyment of life. Much work has shown that loneliness and isolation are bigger risk factors in all-cause mortality than smoking!

Last month I saw Kiss play on their farewell tour. Whilst not their biggest fan, the expectation was they would put on a real show – which they did. Founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are in their 70’s. The latter did a fly over the audience holding onto a rope whilst standing on a hoop. Not bad going for a man with an artificial hip! Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are both 79 and the latter has not led the most abstemious of lives.

To be rocking on stage as a septuagenarian must be enormous fun. It is highly unlikely that when the bands were formed that still playing to audiences 50 years later was even considered.

We are generally told that disease is random and that we are effectively all “sitting ducks” at equal risk of everything. This is not the case. Whilst there are no guarantees in life, there is much that we can do each day which will strongly influence both how long we live and the quality of our health whilst we are alive.

There is much more power in our own hands than we are led to believe.  It is up to us to exercise that power in a way that best serves us.