Michael Masterson is a 46 year old County Longford dairy farmer who's working himself into an early grave. Can he learn to slow down and how long will he live?
His day starts at 5 am. He's found farming tough over the last few years with margins and prices falling. He's committed to his local Midlands community and once the working day ends a new one begins. His commitments include the local soccer club, treasurer of the GAA, secretary of the community games and he's also on the local school board. He hasn't had a holiday for 7 years and works 24/7. At 46, and with five children to support, it's all been getting a bit much.
The pressure is beginning to build - he's always tired, has no time to himself and often feels uptight. He's not alone - 2/3rds of the Irish population have experienced stress, and if it's not managed properly it can have a devastating effect on the body. Stress is related to 80 percent of all major illnesses - we have to convince Michael to slow down before it's too late.
Michael will get a complete once over at the Mater Private Hospital* in Dublin.
His blood will be analysed, and his body thoroughly examined inside and out.
Stress is a contributory factor for heart disease, various cancers and high blood pressure, so there's plenty to look for. It's a silent killer, and prolonged stress is like a time bomb. Once the damage is found it's usually too late.
That evening Michael's back at work. It's might have been a busy day but the cows still need milking...
The blood results are back from the lab and we've calculated Michael's current life expectancy.
IRON SATURATION 60.3%
(normal 17 - 52%)
AST 42 (normal 15-37)
ALT 99 (normal 30-65)
Michael has raised iron levels and some enzymes in his liver were slightly high. He might have hereditary Haemochromatosis - a genetic condition that causes excess iron in the body. If left untreated it can lead to liver failure.
BLOOD PRESSURE 135/85
If he doesn't take steps to manage his stress his resting blood pressure could go up. At 85 that doesn't leave much leeway (90+ is described as high blood pressure).
BMI 30 (obese)
Healthy 21 - 25
His height and weight of 93 kg (or 14 stone 8lbs) just nudges Michael's BMI into the obese category - a medical classification shared by 1 in 5 Irish people.
LIFE EXPECTANCY 75 (current lifestyle)
If Michael carries on as he is he might live to the average age for an Irish man but he could be facing debilitating disease and deteriorating mental health.
- More time off
- Reduce commitments
- 3 healthy meals a day
- Increase activity
Our plan for the next 8 weeks is to encourage Michael to get time off work and reduce his other commitments. We want him to learn to relax. He also needs to bring his weight down by improving his diet and increasing his exercise.
At the end of 8 weeks he will have another medical to see if he's changed how long he will live.
It's the start of the plan and Michael's struggling to find time to make any changes. Tonight, after a 14 hour shift on the farm, there's a community games training session . to be followed by a committee meeting of the local GAA club
It's Sunday and Michaels' given himself most of the day off - he starts off at the local gym*. After some vigorous exercise there's time for the first Masterton family meal since Christmas. Michael's started well but a few days later something happens that no one could have predicted. His father has a stroke - Michael is shocked as his father has been in good health.
Although Michael's still not worked out a way of taking the whole weekend off, he is managing Sundays. Today the family have decided on a trip down the Shannon. Social interaction reduces the level of cortisol in the body - it's a stress hormone that causes the body to store fat in areas that can then lead to heart disease. It may just be a boat trip but Michael's finally taking positive steps to extend his life. But he has to find regular ways to relax.
We sent Michael to try Hapkido* - a Korean Martial art that includes a focus on physical and spiritual wellbeing. If Michael can find the time to do something like this it will really help with managing his stress.
There's still no sign of a full weekend off and Michael's Sunday afternoon off has been cut short by his duties as the local GAA treasurer. A few stress free hours a week is not enough - it's time to bring back stress expert An Coppens. Anxiety plays havoc with the body's immune system. If Michael can learn not to dwell on his worries he will feel happier and healthier.
Michael knows he stresses needlessly about things he cannot change so he tries to develop his own worry-busting techniques, with positive thoughts replacing negative ones.
We persuade Michael to try fishing - an activity he previously rejected, as he couldn't bear to sit or stand in one place. However, he was surprised by how much he enjoyed the experience and the peace and quiet. Michael has turned a corner, and the move towards a healthier more relaxed lifestyle just keeps building.
Trips to the gym have become a regular fixture and he's even started a weekly yoga session. Giving up a soccer team has also left more time for the family and his marriage. His wife is delighted! He's still not managed a full weekend off, but there's been one major breakthrough . he's actually started to enjoy his work and to appreciate working in the countryside.
2 months ago Michael was heading for a burn out. A medical revealed he was borderline obese and over-work and stress was threatening to wreck his future health. The medical and fitness tests were repeated. . he's about find out if he's added any years to his life.
AN COPPE hNS
B/right Business Coaching
Unit 14, Penrose Wharf
Mullingar Arts Centre
Lower Mount Street
Angler and Writer
Results for Michael Masterson
Good news - he is not suffering from haemochromatosis.
BMI was 30, now 28
Wellbeing Questionnaire was 63, now 97
Life Expectancy was 75, now 84