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Howard Croft column: How to work out your end ... 14 years ahead

Exeter Uiversity 'pointy heads' have  been doing research into blood pressure.
Exeter Uiversity 'pointy heads' have been doing research into blood pressure.

Those clever clinical scientists have made a discovery. Frank Dobson (remember him, he was known as Poor Old Dobbo by Private Eye) when he was holding meetings as Minister of Health unfailingly referred to them as “those pointy heads”. The particular pointy heads I have in mind are at the University of Exeter, a fine institution.

What they have discovered is as follows.

It is well-known that children have blood pressure that is not that of a “normal” adult, but it rises steadily as they mature until it reaches “adult normal” where it will remain if they manage to stay away from fags and unhappy marriages.

Or so we thought until the Exeter pointy heads got busy with their slide rules and pencils. What they have established is that in old age blood pressure begins to fall again, the opposite of the process in childhood. What is more, and this is the kicker, the time that this decline begins signals impending death which is likely to be 14 years down the line. Unless, that is, you are bumped off by a discontented wife or throw yourself under a beer delivery truck; that would muck up the pointy heads’ calculations.

Quite what the value of this information is in the real world, or GPs’ consulting rooms is difficult to determine. I am tempted to advise, and this advice should only be followed after consulting a qualified medical practitioner no matter how much you fancy the idea, that you go out and buy an electronic blood pressure measuring machine and test yourself on a daily basis. It is a painless, non-invasive process that takes only a few minutes.

You should probably test yourself in a quiet place when you are feeling relaxed, preferably at the same time every day. Avoid testing if you are in the middle of a hellish row with a still discontented wife (not necessarily your own) who has yet to pluck up the courage to do you in. Or if you are otherwise stressed – just crashed your car say, that kind of thing. Once you notice a declining trend you will know where you are – or where you are going to be.

Make a note of the date when the decline began. This will enable you more sensibly to plan ahead. If, say, the 14th anniversary of the decline is in June you should probably avoid buying any early Christmas presents, or any green bananas come to that. Money isn’t everything and, as you know, you can’t take it with you, but that’s no reason to start being reckless with it.

One further piece of advice: don’t move to Exeter. Some of those pointy heads not only do vital medical research but also see patients from time to time.

Still on the subject of myths and legends, I have been hearing stories about a network of tunnels running under Malton, the purpose of which is a mystery even to local historians.

These tunnels are not drains or other conduits for carrying water, but large affairs that allow the passage of pedestrians. One is said to run from the crypt in the Abbey, now a residential home for the elderly in Old Malton to the Priory church. This is only a short distance and it may have been to enable monks (or, later, ladies of rank who once occupied the Abbey) to get to church whenever it rained without getting wet. The fact that tunnels are expensive to construct and umbrellas are cheap suggests that this explanation is fanciful to say the least.