This is Georgina Easter – she is 100 years old and here she is at her fitness class. She is unusual! But actually she is more “normal” than I had thought. We are designed to be like her and not like my mum.
This is Rosalie – my mum – then aged 80 in a nursing home unable to walk – mainly paralyzed by strokes who has been physically helpless since her late 60’s.
These two pictures show two pathways for aging.
It is likely that Georgina Easter’s process of aging STOPPED at about 80 or earlier. My Mother’s did not.
Here is the context that we now all need to consider – the biology of aging – the template of life – does not track my Mum it tracks Miss Easter and here is the biological “Normal”.
Source Dr Michael Rose
When we end our time of reproduction, the process of aging slows to a crawl or even stops. This is what our biology is set to do.
If we are a hunter gatherer – like say the Kitavans - you may die as a child, you may die in child birth, you may die of an infection or a snake bite or in a conflict – but if you don’t you will live until your 80’s or 90’s and then one day, still active and still a contributor, you will just die. You would look like this as an elder – a village chief.
Just as the Chief is the Normal for our human biology and for his people – My Mum is more Normal for us than Miss Easter. Let’s just explore this a but more and then I will answer the big question as to why we don’t age normally as a larger group.
Most of us face not a life like Georgina but like my mum – nearly 10 years of it before we die.
The consequences are immense. Most of us will share much of my mum’s life – unable to do much for ourselves and so dependent on either a nursing home or an exhausted family. PEI is already creaking because we need more nursing home beds. Each bed costs the state about $36,000 a year before any treatment.
We then tend to die of lingering chronic diseases that consume vast resources.
Cancer, heart disease and stroke offer most of us a lingering, expensive and helpless death. Only 3.7% of us die of pneumonia. We can cure that so we live on to die of cancer instead (but this is another conversation).
Coming up fast behind this is Type 2 Diabetes that makes many of these diseases worse and that has its own complications.
But you say Cancer, heart disease and strokes are “normal” Is the diabetes epidemic normal?
Well they are no more normal than Typhus and Cholera were in London in 1840. They are normal because we all have them – but like London back in 1840 – they are normal because we all live in a toxic place. Then it was toxic place defined by not understanding sanitation – today it is a toxic place because we do not understand food and our biology.
Georgina offers a clue when asked for her secret.
Georgina Easter’s advice is: stay away from nutrition-free fodder and keep fit.
“What’s my secret? Keep away from junk food,” said the centenarian, from Chaddesden, Derby.
“I also do a bit of gardening, I cook every day and I am going to have liver and onions tonight when I get home.”
Yes our modern diet, how and when and we get our food is central to the issue as clean water was back in 1840. We are being poisoned by our approach to food as they were being poisoned by their approach to water.
Our biology moves much more slowly than our culture. We are in effect Paleolithic People living in a Post Modern Bubble. We spent 2 million years evolving slowly to adapt well to certain foods. Agriculture is at most 10,000 years old and even for the most adapted of us from Northern European stock is maybe 7,000 years. Most people’s are not even adapted to that. First Nations people have had only 100 years exposure.
Here is the story of one who died so young because of this:
No one is adapted to the post modern agribusiness diet that has existed for at most 50 years in the US and 30 years in other parts of the world. Peoples with the least evolutionary adaptation such as First Nations Peoples, Indians and Chinese are expressing the worst health outcomes as a result.
It’s not all diet – but changes to our diet can bring on immediate and significant improvements to our health and put us on track for the more normal aging curve and all that that implies for us as individuals, as families and as societies.
There is a lot at stake. I don’t want to spend 10 years ill before I die. Do you? It’s not just about me either. I don’t want Robin to have to spend maybe her last good years being my nurse. I don’t want my kids to have to look after me. And the state will not be able to afford to look after me anyway – or you for that matter.
There are 115 Islanders waiting to get into a nursing home, a number Health PEI calls excessive. This is yesterday’s headline on PEI – the squeeze is on. That is a minimum of 4 million dollars!
You can turn this around now if you want.
In the next series of posts I will be talking more:
- The Bottom Line – a quick overview of what is best not to eat and best to eat and why
- Showing you the best research out there on our evolutionary journey and our relationship with food
- Why so many of our food myths are just that – for instance a calories is not just a calorie – why sugar is the optimal way to add fat – why meat is important – why cooking is important
- Lessons for parents
- Implications for our food system and opportunities for us too