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The 80-year-old Superwoman. By Liz Hodgkinson

Features | By Liz Hodgkinson

In her four score years, Liz Hodgkinson has never been ill or had a check-up

In 1948, Dr Goodenough published a book about a fictional family, the Neverwells. Their many complaints were diagnosed and treated by the wise, all-knowing doctor.

The Neverwells were the forerunners of today’s health columns. The list of illnesses, diseases and treatments covered grows and grows. Week after week, sufferers and survivors of illnesses relate their ‘journey’.

Allow me, then, to introduce Miss Neverill – myself. Whether by luck, good genes or mind over matter, I have never been ill in my life.

My continuing good health at 80 has nothing to do with the ministrations of the medical profession. I haven’t been to a doctor for years, and it’s more than half a century since I was a patient in an NHS hospital.

Although this may sound irresponsible, I have never had a health test or medical check-up. I have never had a mammogram, cervical-smear test, cholesterol test or anything else, nor have I ever taken any prescription medicine, apart from an occasional course of antibiotics. Why go looking for illness? If I feel perfectly well, I probably am.

Living alone helps. I am not in danger of picking up infections from people in the same house.

Although there can be no guarantees, I am certain that lifestyle has a lot to do with keeping healthy. I have been a vegetarian for over 40 years and rarely eat sugary foods such as cakes or biscuits. Over the same time span, I have taken regular, tough exercise.

I get lots of fresh air and walk a lot. I got rid of my last car four years ago. I gave up smoking (with great difficulty). Much as I miss it, I would never dare start again.

I am firmly convinced that obesity is the most serious health problem facing us today.

A good night’s sleep preserves health and I have no difficulty at all. I fall asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow, and wake up seven or eight hours later, completely refreshed.

Early rising is another health-giver. The old saying ‘Early to bed, early to rise’ has a lot of truth to it. Much illness is caused by stress; I try not to let it accumulate and take hold. Going for constant, so-called health checks can actually make you ill – with worry. ‘White-coat syndrome’ is well known – so do all you can to avoid the white coats! Drinking plenty of water is also vital.

Do I have any vices? Yes. For many years, I have drunk several glasses of white wine every evening, far exceeding the 14 units a week recommended for women. So far, there have been no ill effects. I have never taken any recreational drugs.

Now that I have laid all my health cards on the table, I hope I don’t suddenly turn from a Neverill into a Neverwell.

This story was from May 2024 issue. Subscribe Now