Joan McFadden chats to Professor Rose Anne Kenny, an expert in ‘age proofing’ your life, and finds out how cold showers can help you live healthily and happily for longer.
Professor Rose Anne Kenny first became fascinated by ageing nearly 35 years ago as a young doctor in Hammersmith Hospital. Now an award-winning geriatrician, researcher and head of medical gerontology at Trinity College Dublin, she can’t quite believe she’s reached an age where she’s applying the results of her research to herself. However, she knows better than anyone that you can add up to 15 years of good living by following the advice in her latest book, Age Proof: The New Science Of Living A Longer And Healthier Life.
“We can control up to 80% of our ageing and the earlier we start, the better,” says Rose Anne, who lives in Dublin with her surgeon husband Gary. “When I first started working with geriatrics all those years ago, I was fascinated by the holistic approach and loved the emphasis on function and independent living.”
Her work on the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, following almost 9,000 adults aged 50 and older, played a major part in her research. This ongoing study covers everything from sex to food, physical and brain health, genetics, childhood experience, expectations, friendships and finance and illustrates why and how we age. Rose Anne points out that most people will have some awareness of what they should be doing to control ageing. The bigger issue is whether or not they do it.
Rose Anne knows this suggestion will make many wince. “Sorry, but the popularity of cold swimming and cold showers isn’t just the latest fad,” she says. “Cold water immersion stimulates our physiological systems, where small amounts of a harmful or painful agent are actually good for us and for the ageing process. Exposure of the skin to cold water increases the release of important nerve signals and chemicals, boosts immune responses and reduces frequency of chest infections.
“Start at ten seconds after washing in warm water and if it’s awful, just scream it out until you can do 20 seconds. Very gradually work up to two minutes and you’ll soon be surprised as to how addictive it is.”
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