Every day this woman is killing herself. Can she change? How long will she live?
There are three things certain to reduce someone's life expectancy - cigarettes, poor diet and stress. 35-year-old workaholic teacher Kathryn O'Dwyer is a lover of all three - especially stress.
Her job as a teacher might finish at 4.15pm - but seven hours later Kathryn can still be found working.
What gets her through the day is coffee - and lots of it!
Along with the coffee is a 20 a day cigarette addiction. And when it all gets too much there's always the pub.
Her husband Gar is also desperate for Kathryn to get help. If she wants to live longer she's going to have to completely change everything she does, and we've got just 8 weeks to convince her to do it!
Dr Mark wanted to start by getting her to look seriously at her most harmful habit, smoking. Cigarettes contain dangerous chemicals that are also found in household products, we made Kathryn a cocktail from the poisons she merrily inhales every day - including ingredients such as; paint remover, lighter fuel, ammonia, and ant killer, just some of the 60 plus cancer causing chemicals in cigarettes. Thanks to chemicals like this 10 times more people die in Ireland each year from smoking than from road accidents.
THE FITNESS TESTS
Tonight she is at the National Coaching and Training Centre*. We're getting her body fat measured and measuring how well her body responds to exercise.
By analysing her breath and blood lactate levels we can see she is unfit, her vo2 max is just 31.5 - if wants to live longer this has to improve.
THE MEDICAL TESTS
We will find out exactly how her lifestyle has affected her body. Kathryn will undergo a complete examination from head to toe, and from pancreas to liver. From the results we'll be able to get a handle on her risks of heart disease, stroke, cancers and diabetes and make sure there is nothing that doesn't require immediate treatment. Kathryn was tested at Barrington's Hospital* in Limerick.
THE MEDICAL RESULTS
Ideally Kathryn's cholesterol should be below 5.
BLOOD PRESSURE 150/90
(Resting blood pressure should be below 90)
High resting blood pressure combined with raised cholesterol could eventually lead to heart disease, stroke and angina.
By applying Kathryn's results to a variety of life expectancy calculators we predict that if she carries on as she is then her life expectancy at the moment averages just 59 years. The average life expectancy for an Irish woman is 80 years.
EIGHT WEEK PLAN
Our plan for the next 8 weeks is nothing short of a radically different way of life.
- We want her to give up the erratic eating habits and reduce her coffee to less than 3 cups a day.
- We want her to look at better ways of coping with her stress than going to the pub
- We want her to increase the intensity of her exercise
- We want her to completely give up smoking
Kathryn's brand new lifestyle begins with a visit from stress management expert Therese Ryan*. She's convinced that the root of Kathryn's problems with sleep and overwork lie not at the office but in the home. Kathryn works and eats in her sitting room and frequently takes her laptop to bed; she does not take any time out for herself.
It doesn't take Therese long to identify easy changes Kathryn can make that will help her relax and improve her health.
- To cook and eat in the kitchen
- To use the sitting room for ‘time out'
- To actually ‘take time out for herself' scheduled in her diary
- Stop working in her bedroom and use it for sleep and relaxation
- To have a weekly massage
- To turn her spare room into a study
Therese feels if Kathryn does this she will be 50% there in changing her life expectancy. However, we believe there is still a long way to go.
Kathryn goes on holiday planning to say goodbye to her old life. We are really encouraged by Kathryn's attitude. She's right - a holiday is not the time to attempt to give up highly addictive habits - but she seems determined to try when she comes back. We are still not convinced though that she realises just how hard it's going to be.
When Kathryn's back from holiday she smokes what she hopes is her last cigarette. Things are now getting serious. We want to introduce Kathryn to a new activity - boxing - we think that this could benefit her in many ways. Vigorous exercise like this releases natural endorphins, which will help Kathryn relax - and learning a new skill might finally help take her mind off work.
Kathryn has begun to implement some more recommendations - she's following Therese Ryan's advice about looking at how she uses her living space and she's decided to turn the spare room into an office.
It's good to see that she's beginning to deal with her overwork but other areas of her lifestyle change are proving more difficult.
Since Kathryn gave up smoking 20 cigarettes a day, she's been using patches and gum but she's finding the going tough. If Kathryn can't defeat her addiction she's likely to be facing a pretty grim future.
We hope we can convince Kathryn to give non-smoking just one last try. If she can just keep going things will get easier ......... and maybe then she can start picking up on the rest of her lifestyle changes.
Kathryn is beginning to turn a corner. She's making time to relax with a massage. Boxercise classes and the gym are also getting her through the worst of the cigarette cravings. Her home office is also proving invaluable and the long nights working in bed have become a thing of the past and she hasn't had a cigarette for almost two weeks.
When Dr Mark sees Kathryn for the final time she's in a reflective mood. 2 months ago Kathryn set out to completely change her life. A series of tests revealed she was heading for a future of ill health and a predicted life span of just 59 years. Her medical tests were repeated and Dr Mark will tell her if she' s made any difference to how long she lives.
Barrington's Hospital and Medical Centre
Stress Management Consultant
10 Newenham St
JJB FITNESS CLUB
Unit 10 Childers Road
Limerick, Ireland 00353 61422350
RESULTS FOR KATHRYN O'DWYER
TOTAL CHOLESTEROL now 4.9 (was 5.11)
BLOOD PRESSURE now 140/78 (was 150/'90)
BODY FAT 33.9% (was 36.3%)
LIFE EXPECTANCY 88