By Bunmi Sofola
A few weeks to her delivery date, Louisa’s husband, Jerry went with her to the clinic at the insistence of her gynaecologist. “She always talks to the father-to-be to prepare him for parenthood,” Louisa said. “What the poor woman didn’t know was that the pregnancy might be my first—but the child would be my husband’s ninth child! He’d been married twice before, and had lost his last wife to breast cancer.
He was in his early 50s, I was 22! As she ushered me to the private room for my normal check-up, she told me cheerfully that, “you can bring your dad along with you too,” nodding towards Jerry as he perched nervously on a chair.
“ He’s not my dad,” I hissed, “he’s my husband.” The patronising smile on the doctor’s face vanished and she looked embarrassed. She quickly told me she’d meant the father of the child—not my father. But we all knew she was trying to right her gaffe! Poor thing.” And her reaction was nothing new. With a husband some 30 years older, we’re used to stares and clumsy comments. I’d met him a few years after he lost his wife.
It was at a charity show where Jerry helped sell tickets. He was very flirty for his age, and when he offered me dinner there and then on the premises the charity show took place, I gladly accepted.
“He was a nice aging handsome man and within a few months, we were lovers. When I got pregnant, he was ecstatic—as if he’d never been a father. My mum was shocked and angry—he was eight years older than my dad! There was nothing they could do to stop us—a child was already
involved. Even after I had the child, my mum was still hinting I could dump Jerry as soon as I found someone younger. But he’s a nice man, though lately, I’ve noticed how breathless he gets at times. He’s lost a bit of weight too and I realized with shock that he might even die before he could see our son through the university. A catty friend of mine asked recently whether I worried about kids commenting on my son having an old dad when he starts going to school. I told her I’d cross that bridge when I get to it…. “
But is it selfish to become an older parent? “You can’t say a mum is too old at a specific age,” Louisa said, “it’s the same with older dad. Some men are fitter at 50 than others at 40.
If a man has a child at 70, he might not be there when the child’s an adult. But he may be a better dad than a man of 25. It is a fact that men father babies in their 70s, while for women, it seems it’s downhill from 35. Why is it so different for women?” According to an obstetrician/ gynaecologist, Peter Simpkins:”There is a small decline in women’s fertility from 30 to 35 years. Then the drop accelerates.
If you take 100 women aged 25 having regular intercourse (two to three times a week), you’d expect 90 to 95 to become pregnant in a year. At 40, you’d expect this figure to fall to 50. The risk of miscarriage increases with age. At age 25 to 30, around 15 per cent of pregnancies end in
miscarriage. By 40, 25 per cent. By 50, the risks are far higher. A third of miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities. The contents of a woman’s egg deteriorate as she ages.
“For men, the sperm count remains reasonably the same as he ages if he stays sexually active, if not, his testosterone levels drop significantly.
Older women are more likely to be overweight or have higher blood pressure, which can lead to problems in pregnancy, Ligaments in the pelvis are less elastic as they age which could cause labour problems.
Problems arise if a woman waits until 30 to fall pregnant but doesn’t. By the time she’s had fertility tests, she may already be 35 before considering avenues such as IVF.”
All you need to keep healthy is a 30-minute walk a day
If you want to stay young, don’t wait for a wonder drug—just go for a walk instead. A half-hour walk every day is as good as a I ‘super-pill’ capable of combating age-related illness from diabetes to dementia, Britain’s biggest science conference heard. It also fights obesity, arthritis, cancer, and helps lift depression. Dr. James Brown, an expert in ageing, said that while 30 minutes’ brisk walking a day may not seem like much, studies from around the world show it benefits all-round health.
Dr. Brown, a lecturer in health sciences at Birmingham’s Aston University, said: ‘All of these changes are not seen in people that run marathons, they are not seen in people who lift weights in the gym or spend four hours running on the tread-mill, these are seen in people who walk, and who walk for half an hour a day. You can get all these health benefits you can get a reduction in all of these diseases that are associated with ageing by just keeping active.’ Dr. Brown told the British Science Festival 2 that maintaining muscle as we age is key to staying mobile and living an independent life.
Not only is exercise the best way of keeping muscles from withering, it has many other benefits. Delivering a round-up of existing research, he said: ‘Maintaining your muscle mass, maintaining your activity level, is really important. But there is no need to worry because it has all been sorted. There is a magic new supper-pill. This super-pill will prevent obesity. It will also reduce deposits of bad fat. It prevents diabetes. It reduces risk of cardiovascular disease—heart attacks, strokes.
This pill reduces the risk of, or delays, Alzheimer’s disease.
‘So if you give this pill to people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease, 50 per cent of the people who take this pill will have a reduced progression of the disease. It reduces the risk of some cancers, particularly cancer of the gut. It can increase mobility.’ He went on to say that regular walks
can even treat depression. Dr. Brown said that 30 per cent of people with depression who take up walking for half an hour a day find their symptoms are improved. If the amount of time that patients spend walking is increased, the number who notice improvement reaches nearly 50 per cent.
He added: ‘It reduces anxiety in about 50 per cent of people and can improve levels of cognition. It can improve your ability to think and reason.
It reduces arthritic pain in about 50 per cent of sufferers and can reduce hospital admissions in older women for hip fractures by 40 per cent.
It gives you more energy and reduces fatigue levels and if you tie all these things up together into one real subject area, it’s quality of life. If you give somebody a quality of life questionnaire three or six months later, their quality of life will have improved. We also see a 23-per cent lower risk of death. This isn’t a pill, it’s exercise.’
Dr. Brown, who is the clinical and community engagement lead at the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing, said muscle tissue releases a hormone that regulates the ageing process. The more active you stay as you get older, the more likely it is that your body will age well. He added: ‘ Avoid the man boobs and spare tyre as much as you can and you’ll age better.’ It is never too early to start, he said, adding: ‘We’re all very different. The key thing is to do as much as you can. The message
I’m trying to get across is it’s as simple as movement. It’s all about getting your heart beating slightly faster, burning up glucose.’