Paul Losty is 43 years old and runs a hairdressing salon in Finglas, Dublin. He snacks on the run, never takes a lunch break, and is seriously stressed. He needs to get control of his life now, before it's too late. Paul is going to have a complete health check but first Dr Mark wanted to check his stress levels.
The body needs some stress but it's thought that excess stress can be related to many of the major illnesses including heart disease, immune disorders, ulcers and strokes. If Paul is going to increase how long he lives it's vital he starts to deal with this stress.
One thing that encouraged the doctor is that Paul has interests away from work, including horse riding. This is an excellent way of relieving stress and could add years to his life. The problem is going to be convincing him to make time to put his health before his business.
It was time for a thorough medical. The first series of tests will check his blood for a variety of potential health problems including diabetes - a disease that runs in his family. We also need to check the fat in Paul's blood, including cholesterol. High cholesterol can be genetic and, as Paul's twin suffers from this, it's something Dr Mark is concerned about. Cholesterol can also be raised by work stress and bad eating habits.
Paul's family also has a history of heart problems. Heart disease is Ireland's biggest killer and kills more people below the age of 65 than any other disease. Stress can also cause hypertension but Paul's blood pressure and heart are healthy. However, Dr Mark was concerned about his fitness.
An ultrasound confirms there are no problems with Paul's other major organs and so far things are looking pretty good. but a thorough examination by Dr Kelly throws up other concerns.
Paul has been dealing with his stress by comfort eating and by calculating his body mass index from his height and weight we can tell this habit has had major consequences. Paul's BMI is 32, that means he's clinically obese. Years of high fat snacking are taking their toll on his health.
Paul was dangerously overweight and it was time to find out if his bad eating habits have had any effect on the fats in his blood. The results were in and it wasn't looking good. His cholesterol level was 6.6, a healthy level is 5 or below. At 6.6 Paul's cholesterol is too high and could cause coronary heart disease or stroke.
Stress and high cholesterol are a potentially lethal combination. Paul needs to realise that he could be taking years off his life. If Paul doesn't change his lifestyle Dr Mark is convinced he could become seriously ill within the next ten years.
Paul Losty is 43 years old and the stress of running his own hairdressing salon is threatening to drastically reduce his life expectancy. We've got 8 weeks to try to add the years back on. A full medical uncovered some potential health risks including obesity and high cholesterol, caused by comfort eating to deal with stress.
Over the next 8 weeks Dr Mark's plan is to improve Paul's life expectancy by managing his stress and reducing his weight. He wants him to cut down his workload and use the extra time to relax. He also wants him to tackle his weight and cholesterol by increasing his activity levels, and by following a low-fat high-fibre eating plan.
Today is day one of the plan and it's all about finding ways to relax. Dr Mark takes Paul to a session of Chi Gong, which is a discipline within Tai Chi. Martial arts are a great way of reducing stress and Dr Mark hopes Chi Gong will be something Paul can learn to do easily at home, for 30 minutes each day. He should feel the benefits almost immediately.
The Tai Chi would help Paul to relax but it was now time to try and tackle the cause of much of Paul's stress - his business commitments. We enlisted the help of An Coppens, a Business Coach, who's worked with many small businesses. An's experience allows her to immediately spot the areas that Paul needs to address.
By observing Paul at work An will be able to both build a picture of why his job is causing him so much stress and to recommend changes. As the boss, Paul is currently chief stylist, head of human resources, director of finance, and marketing manger. But Paul's been his own boss for 15 years; any changes An recommends are going to be difficult.
For the next couple of weeks Paul tries to implement the plan but there's been a major setback, Paul has given up the Tai Chi because the group teacher has left. If Dr Mark is going to make any impact on Paul's life expectancy it's vital he find some form of exercise to replace the Tai Chi - he recommends cycling.
Exercise reduces anxiety and stress and, combined with the eating plan, will reduce his weight and cholesterol. By switching to a healthy diet and increasing exercise it is possible to lower cholesterol levels within 6 weeks.
Paul continues to get stuck into the plan. The new staff-training programme is going well.
The work side of the plan still seems to be going well. Paul has even begun to take time away from the salon to go riding again. The fact that he's taking time to ride is a huge step. His eating has also improved and Dr Mark is confident if he can continue on this course he will live a longer life.
For the last 8 weeks Paul has been attempting live a healthier lifestyle. Today he'll find out how successful he's been. Will he have added any years to his life expectancy?
Weight 82.9 kg - previously 83.9 kg
BMI 31.5 - previously 32
Cholesterol 6.5 - no significant change
Because Paul's weight and cholesterol have not changed very much, the life expectancy calculator Mark used showed only a 0 to 3 years increase in life expectancy. At best he has added on 3 years to his life expectancy - this is because he is calmer, his mental state is better and he is doing more exercise. Mark assures him if he continues in this direction his weight and cholesterol will come down and he will increase his life expectancy. Paul says he is sleeping and eating better than he used to, though he realizes he is still not exercising not as much as would like. However, he feels more relaxed. Paul thinks it will take him about 2 years to get to where he wants to be, he sees this as a long-term project.