John Keane is a 21 year old marketing student from Athlone who suffers from Crohn's disease - an incurable disease that affects the lining of the gut and his diet of beer and processed food is making his condition worse. He suffers from regular boughts of cramps, fever and severe diarrhoea.
Crohn's disease causes tissues that line the digestive system to become inflamed. Crohn's disease can strike anybody at any age but it most often appears in the late teens. It's been linked to a faulty gene but the exact cause is currently unknown. There is no cure but the disease can be managed by steroids and by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
It's not just beer that's affecting his health - his hectic lifestyle of socialising, part-time work and music leaves little time to be healthy.
We sent John for a medical at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin.
Crohn's disease should not be having an impact on the rest of his body but his lifestyle might so today he's getting a complete check - inside and out.
At his age it's unlikely that his lifestyle has caused permanent damage but what will show up in today's tests are all the problems he might be storing up for the future - bad habits today can lead to major health problems tomorrow.
The first result was a surprise - John is partially colour blind!
(NORMAL LEVEL 155-422)
His high urate level could be genetic. It is related to gout and although it does not mean he will get gout it is something he should keep an eye on. A healthier lifestyle will help prevent this.
BMI 27 - OVERWEIGHT
(HEALTHY LEVEL 21-25)
John is 13 stone 10lbs, or 87 kg, which for his height makes him overweight.
CURRENT LIFE EXPECTANCY - 68
John is set to die 7 years before the national average for an Irish man. His unhealthy lifestyle is not just exacerbating his Crohn's disease it's also taking years off his life.
8 WEEK PLAN
- CUT DOWN ON ALCOHOL
- INCREASE ACTIVITY
- 3 HEALTHY MEALS A DAY
- 5 PORTIONS OF FRUIT & VEG
Over the next 8 weeks we want John to cut down on his drinking and try and increase his activity. Most importantly we want him to take a long hard look at his eating habits and improve his diet.
It was time to rescue John from his vegetable free life by enlisting the help of nutrition expert Margot Brennan*. The nutrients contained in vegetables are vital for the body to function properly and they are doubly important to someone who suffers from Crohn's disease. It beggars belief that he's about to try many of them for the first time in his life.
If we have any chance of persuading John to reduce his visits to the pub we need to find something else he might enjoy. We took him sailing and are hoping this will spark an interest in water sports. Anything that gets John out of breath will be good for his health and just 30 minutes activity each day will half his relative risk of death.
After our good start all attempts at a healthy life style have gone out the window. The play that John's been rehearsing has gone on tour and he's finding it hard to implement the good habits he's learnt. If John's serious about reducing the impact of Crohn's and living longer he's going to have to find a way of fitting healthy habits into his busy life.
We're a month in and it's time to send back nutrition expert Margot Brennan. A healthy diet is doubly important for John. Crohns is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the gut and his inflamed intestines don't absorb nutrients as well as they should. If he's not careful he could become short of what his body needs to stay healthy. Calcium is a particular problem for John as, like many sufferers of Crohn's, he is also lactose intolerant.
Although John's trying hard, we're worried that he's yet to really make the leap and consider healthy habits as part of his routine. And It's not only the drink that's hard to say goodbye to . the frozen foods section used to be his favourite part of the supermarket! But he is beginning to venture into new areas of the supermarket and the omelette has now become something of a speciality!
John is going to Electric Picnic - a 3 day music festival. His new healthy lifestyle is about to get its biggest test, and Dr Mark is worried John may be losing his motivation.
We want John to start thinking about the long term. We want him to realise that if he is generally healthy then his body can cope with the occasional indiscretion. We've only got two weeks left and I'm worried he still thinks healthy living is a bit of a chore.
We encouraged John to get on his bike - cycling for 20 minutes or more is an excellent workout for the muscles, heart and lungs and can burn off as many as 700 calories in an hour.
The next few months will be a real test but he's determined that a return to student life won't mean a return to an unhealthy life.
Two months ago John's unhealthy life style was exacerbating his Crohn's disease and reducing his life. His medical tests have now been repeated and today we will tell John whether he has added any years to his life.
HODSON BAY SAILING SCHOOL
Tel: 1 890 704 090
Results for John Keane:
WELL BEING 82 % (PREVIOUSLY 73 %)
LUNG AGE 23 (previously 28)
BMI 26 (previously 27)
LIFE EXPECTANCY - was 68 now 84