Biology, ecology and biomedical science at Brighton

University of Brighton biosciences blog

Blue blood helps keeps the Queen fit

P11_Dr Richard Faragher_ageing_001Elizabeth II has a good chance of being healthier than one of her average subjects because of her high-class.

The Queen, as she celebrates her 90th birthday tomorrow (21 April), like most women 85 and over, would normally expect to be six and ten times more likely than men to have rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and thyroid problems and, overall, have a significantly higher levels of disability.

Professor Richard Faragher, Professor of Biogerontology at the University of Brighton, said many problems reported by 20-40 per cent of 1,000 people, 85 and over, who took part in a Newcastle 85+ study, would have difficulty carrying out royal duties because of incontinence, falling and visual impairment.

“Given that listening to politicians is an important part of the role, readers may wish to decide for themselves if advancing age has conferred an advantage or a disadvantage on the two-thirds of the cohort who report hearing difficulties.”

Professor Faragher, in an article in The Conversation, the website for news, comment and analysis, written by academics and researchers, said it would seem the odds are against the Queen continuing working.

“However, she does have three potential advantages. Firstly she has blue blood, and in the general population there is an (approximately) linear relationship between healthy life expectancy and social class.

To read Professor Faragher’s article, go to the conversation website

“Women from social class I (doctors, chartered accountants, professionally qualified engineers, etc) can expect to live about 80 years in a fairly good state of health. In contrast, healthy life expectancy at birth for unskilled women is only about 69 years. Thus Elizabeth II has a good chance of being healthier than one of her average subjects.

“Secondly, data from the 85+ study indicate there is a good chance that she feels positive about her health in general (and indeed the same study shows she is less likely than a man of the same age to develop atherosclerosis or cancer).

“Lastly, unlike those of her ancestors who continued to reign into old age such as Edward I (who died at 68) or Elizabeth I (who died at 70), Elizabeth II lives in the era of science. We now know that ageing occurs because the fundamental mechanisms which keep us in good health start to fail.

“Enough is already known about these to use that knowledge to improve vaccination responses in the elderly using a selective inhibitor of the TOR protein which may also be beneficial for cognitive impairment. A major study aimed at improving late life health using a cheap and simple drug – metformin – is also planned.”

Professor Faragher, who is affiliated with the British Society for Research on Ageing, the American Aging Association and the American Federation for Aging Research, said an enhanced immune system is a bonus to an older monarch who spends a lot of time opening hospital wards, it is equally valuable to those who would rather avoid having to use them.

“Indeed if the full potential of the new science of ageing can be translated into clinical practice, then a time in which inclination, rather than ill health, is the primary determinant of remaining in work may be nearer than you think.

“Which may or may not be good news for the Prince of Wales.”

To read Professor Faragher’s article, go to: the conversation website

For more information on Professor Faragher and his research go to our research pages

Stephanie Thomson • April 18, 2016

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