Susan was in her mid-thirties when her elderly mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and she took on the role of caregiver.
She followed a heavy family tradition: as a teenager, she had watched her beloved mother take care of her mother through the same debilitating illness. So when Susan met Annabel at the gate of a kindergarten in London in 2006, they soon realized that they had a lot in common.
Annabel & # 39; s mother had also cared for her grandmother through dementia, and both women were terrified that the disease would affect them and affect the lives of their children in the same way.
Then Susan came across a life-changing research paper that suggested starting a healthy lifestyle at 50 could reduce the risk of dementia by up to 90 percent. Tied by a determination to test different ways to improve their health in middle life and to protect themselves from the accelerated aging they had seen in their families, Susan and Annabel put together a joint mission: they called it & # 39; Age Well Project & # 39 ;.
Susan, 52 and Annabel, 54, (photos & # 39; s from left to right) have released a new book in which they show how they can review their midlife health, based on medical studies and expert advice
Over the past five years, when they entered their 50s, the couple immersed themselves in the latest medical studies, interviewed experts, and tested health recommendations in an unceasing bid to radically revise their lives.
Now the popular blog that documented their findings has turned into a book, the extracts of which we use exclusively in Inspire.
Annabel, 54, a novelist and writer, has four children from 13 to 19 years old, while Susan, 52, a TV producer, has two daughters aged 15 and 18 years. Both women grew up in the shadow of the disease, and also see loved ones dying early from dementia, heart disease and cancer, or the lives of their so-called golden years devastated by disease, paralyzed by arthritis or unable to recognize their own family.
When they met, Annabel had already inherited a chronic disorder (inflammatory bowel disease). Both raised families, worked full-time and hardly paid attention to their health.
In the course of their investigations, Annabel dropped a clothing size and Susan lost her & # 39; mom tum & # 39 ;. The back pain that almost destroyed Annabel's career and defied treatment has disappeared. Her chronic autoimmune disease is now in remission and (strangely enough) her eyesight has improved. Both no longer have colds in the winter.
Here they show how they have changed their lives and their health – now and in the future.
NO, YOU CAN'T REALLY STAY
So much of our research revealed the frightening fact that many diseases actually start later in life, quiet and covert, in middle age. And yet middle age is often the busiest time of our lives.
We knew that our lifestyle was completely wrong: we ate the wrong things, got snacks, eat junk, only sporadic training and endured sleepless nights and chronic stress. After a decade of juggling with endless pregnancies and miscarriages, six children and elderly parents and in-laws between us, not to mention enormously demanding work commitments, our own health had slipped to the bottom of the pile.
The duo emphasizes the importance of exercise to live longer and maintain good health, they both play table tennis to improve their hand-eye coordination and enjoy training
So it was quite a wake-up call to find research that suggested that we could live longer and better than our ancestors and that our fate was not determined by our genes.
We realized that we could start making changes, but we had to act quickly in the late forties. We were just in time.
We have studied medical books and magazines, research reports, culinary history, neuroscience, and the latest discoveries about aging. We attended lectures, talked to doctors and researchers, and we cooked healthy food and actually made time for exercise.
The best part? It really seems to work. We feel better in our 50s than we have ever felt before. We suffer less from stress, we enjoy better sleep, better behaved guts, defined muscles, more energy, thicker hair, less cough and cold, low blood pressure, consistent weight and a greater sense of purpose.
Shall we avoid the diseases of our ancestors? We do not know.
Take table tennis
Susan has a table tennis table in her garden and Annabel holds a folding table in her TV room and challenges her children to play in the commercial breaks. Playing regularly improves hand-eye coordination and offers a good, fun workout.
We don't want to be younger. Not for all goji berries in China, we would turn back the clock on our fear-stricken teenagers, our poverty-stricken and hung over-20s, our exhausted child-bearing years & # 39; 30, the & # 39; sandwich & # 39; – years of our 40s juggling children and aging parents.
It's great to be able to say that we absolutely love being in our fifties. We are doing well and we intend to love our 60s, 70s and beyond. But do you want to know the biggest secret of a longer life? You'll have to go.
All experts agree that exercise is the magic bullet for good health, and the grim truth that is confirmed by research areas is that once you are at midlife, it can no longer be optional.
Whether you want to take a brisk walk, shop bags, vacuum or challenge the children to a game of table tennis, it all counts – and every exercise is better than none.
HOW TO FIT YOURSELF
You can easily see Annabel in the cinema or on a long train or car ride – she will be the one who wiggles her toes, curls and stretches her fingers, rolls on her shoulders and lifts one leg, and then the other. In the interest of our health, we have both become inveterate fidgets. We all spend way too much time sitting down, and it is killing us.
Experts say that sitting every two hours reduces blood flow, increases blood sugar levels and the & # 39; good & # 39; lowers cholesterol. Long-term sitting increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, obesity and cancer.
Studies suggest that women who live sedentary lives, but often fidget, are able to have the same health as very active individuals
Long periods of sitting can also affect our brains, causing thinning in the area of the brain that forms memories. But if you have to sit for long periods, fidgeting can reverse the damage. Studies have shown that sedentary women who fidget enjoy the same health as very active women. So, not surprisingly, we learned to fiddle very quickly. Now we stretch out at our desks and stand when we use the phone. You will notice that we tap our feet, wiggle our knees, shrug our shoulders. Everything goes!
- Set an alarm on your phone to ping every 30 minutes and to remind you to fiddle, get up, or move.
- Analyze your daily session and cut it into: planning walking or regular meetings; work at a desk for part of your day; watch TV from an exercise bike; arranging social activities that involve movement.
- Put a note on your computer screen and say: & # 39; Sitting can kill you & # 39 ;.
- Buy a set of bicycle pedals to place under your desk (around £ 15 online).
- Swap your office chair for a large stability ball, which forces you to constantly adjust your posture to stay balanced; or put a & # 39; wobble cushion & # 39; (around £ 10) on your seat to prevent you from becoming too comfortable.
HIKING IS SUCCESSFUL – BEWARE OF THE SPOT!
When our children were young, the only walk we managed to send them to and from school was (slowly).
We knew that this was not enough, but we could not see how we could possibly squeeze more.
Researchers believe that the effort you make is more important than how long you practice. Lively walking can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and protect against dementia
Lively walking can reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 24 percent and protect against dementia. With a family history like ours, it was crazy not to. We discovered that to reach the maximum age, including the benefits, you will have to work faster. Studies show that a ten-minute fast walk is cheaper than a 30-minute meander: it's the effort you make, not the duration of the time you walk, that's the most important thing. This is all excellent news for busy midlifers like us, because who can't have a few short outbursts every day?
Now we both walk every day – fast. Susan sometimes walks too. Annabel leaves the car at home and walks to and from her local supermarket, which carries food in the bags home, in the old-fashioned way, thus strengthening the arm muscles and making her heart pound.
We both track our pace and our distance with a pedometer (you can use your smartphone as one) and follow more than 100,000 steps a week, a lot of stealth – commuting, shopping, dog walks, school walks, gardening.
How can you stay fit while making a cuppa?
Weights? Resistance training? Isn't that for gym rabbits or starting bodybuilders? We certainly thought so.
But talk to an expert about a long life and it becomes crystal clear: resistance training – using weights to build muscle – is just as important as aerobics, eating vegetables and a good night's sleep.
So-called strength training can reduce the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, strokes and diabetes, as well as slowing down bone loss and relieving the pain of arthritis.
The lucky by-product we have found is well-shaped arms, firm thighs, the ability to lift and carry more, and better quality sleep.
We had never worked with free weights (too intimidating, too boring), but our aging research convinced us that working with our own body weight and a few hand weights was the most efficient and convenient way to build strength.
That is why we have strategically placed pairs around our house: in the kitchen next to the boiler; in the bathroom next to the sink; in front of the TV.
Every time we make a cup of tea, we spend a few minutes doing bicep curls, shoulder presses, tricep presses and lateral movements. After brushing our teeth we do a few squats. When we watch TV, we pop a few lunges with weights and Annabel always stands on one leg to brush her teeth – which is a great exercise to improve balance.
You don't need weights when you start – you can use books, bottles of water or cans of beans. But through resistance training to this day in bite-sized & # 39; snacks & # 39; to weave, and scraps of & # 39; dead & # 39; time, we have become almost secretively stronger.
Don't worry about what other people think or making an idiot of yourself.
We do calf infections while standing on the tube, squat while we wait at the bus stop and have lunch while standing in the queue.
Yes, our children writh with shame, but what then?
IT'S TIME TO JUMP
Although our family members did not suffer from osteoporosis, it was clear from our research that weakening bones is a major problem for women and that it can start in midlife.
So we wanted to make sure we did the right exercises to keep our bones strong. Research shows that jumping ten to twenty times a day is more beneficial for bones than running or jogging, so we are both taking part in our training sessions now.
Try burpees (squat and place your hands on the floor, kick your feet back into a plank position, then jump them forward and jump up to stand). They are a killer, but effective. Or try to skip or just jump in and out of a low box.
Susan jumps up and down a few times to wake herself up before she gets dressed every morning, adds star jumps in her gym routine and will & # 39; pogo & # 39; when she waits for a bus.
Susan and Annabel recommend new dance routines instead of repeating the same choreography to protect your brain against dementia
EVEN YOU CAN FIND TEN MINUTES TO WORK
Susan always felt guilty about spending time at the gym, but now she has put the exercise much higher on her to-do list and discovers that she can compact her workouts into short, sharp, high-intensity circuits.
Despite its unexpected name, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) means nothing more than adding short intensity bursts to your activity. It works on a treadmill, bicycle or rowing machine and it couldn't be easier: go a few seconds a little faster and then leave enough time for recovery. Then repeat.
We both took HIIT in our fifties and we do three sessions of ten to 20 minutes each week: Annabel does her HIIT sessions on the rower and the treadmill (walking uphill), while Susan prefers structured HIIT lessons in the fitness center.
We have become stronger through stealth squats at the bus stop, lunges watching TV. Yes, our children are writhing, but what then?
A growing body of evidence suggests that exercise like this has a deeper effect on our brains, bodies, and guts. It has been found that it increases the activity of mitochondria (the & # 39; batteries & # 39; of our cells) as we age, and to improve memory.
But remember, always stop when it feels too much.
DANCE LIKE NO ONE SEES YOU
All kinds of dance is a great way to protect your brain against dementia. Studies show that regular dancing can even reduce your risk by 76 percent.
Zumba has been shown to improve mood and cognitive skills, while Scottish dances have reduced age-related decline in women older than 70.
Strive to learn new steps and routines regularly as you move, instead of repeatedly working on the same old choreography. You get the best brain boost with freestyle dance, where you constantly make decisions of a second about how, where and when to move.
Adapted by Louise Atkinson of The Age-Well Project by Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders (£ 14.99, Piatkus) from May 2. © Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders 2019. Visit mailshop.co to order a copy for £ 11.99 (20% discount). uk / books or call 0844 571 0640; p & p free with orders over £ 15. Spend £ 30 on books and receive FREE premium delivery. Offer valid until 28/04/2019.