My life as a guinea pig

( Not exactly blogggy - but interesting! )

Medical researchers have tracked David Ward since his birth in 1946. The findings shed fascinating light on the impact of childhood on health in later years It's my birthday this week and any minute a card from London will drop on to the doormat. It's always the first to arrive; it will be tasteful and carry a greeting from the medical researchers who have tracked me since birth. It will also remind me that I'm turning 62.

Age is a terrible thing. Eight years ago I could easily balance on one leg with my eyes closed. OK, so I wobbled and eventually groped for a chair, but the nurse said I had stayed upright longer than anyone else she had tested. But when challenged again late last year, I staggered uncontrollably round the room."I don't think we can allow hopping," said the nurse, noting my abject failure on my file.

This information will be relayed to records held on me by the National Survey of Health and Development, the world's longest-running survey of its kind. It began with 13,687 babies born in 1946 and has been tailing me ever since.

It wins a mention in David Kynaston's book Austerity Britain, and was intended by its founder Dr James Douglas (one of only three directors of the study) to investigate the declining national birthrate. But once the war was over and the nation began breeding again, Douglas decided to follow 5,362 of us to study differences in health and survival among different social groups; more than 3,000 of us are still on the books.

The study's findings are now a unique record of the impact of childhood on later life: in the latest round of tests, they measured my grip, the strength of which has been clearly shown to be directly related to birth weight.

Similarly, the timing of the menopause is directly affected by childhood factors. "What we have shown in our study," says Professor Diana Kuh, current director of the ongoing survey, "is that various developmental and early life markers are associated with age at menopause. For example, we found that women in the study who were the lightest at two years old or who experienced parental divorce by age 15 had an earlier age at menopause than women who were heavier at two, did not experience parental divorce, and who had mothers with a later menopause.

"In contrast, we found that being breast-fed, higher childhood cognitive ability and increasing parity [the number of times a woman gives birth] were associated with a delayed onset of menopause. These results did not appear to be explained by later risk factors such as smoking, which we know brings forward the age of menopause. We are currentlyinvestigating whether early environmental or genetic programming may explain these associations."
Using your brain has, once again, been shown to be good for you. Survey members who went to adult education classes (or received job training) achieved higher scores in memory and word recognition tests than those whose education stopped in their 20s.

Source - Independent

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