Today I attended a birthday celebration for 74 year old identical twin brothers. While casually sipping on my ice water and soaking up the jovial ambience, I gazed at the head of the table. My eyes met those of the smiling guests of honor and I was instantly struck with a personification of the drastic power held within lifestyle choices. The younger twin simultaneously works as the head of weights and measures, prison chaplain, and sheriff of a small county in rural Illinois. He is thin and seems to have no trouble sitting, standing, or walking. The wheel chair bound elder twin is unable to work and recently arrived home after a 5 month journey to and from various convalescent homes and hospitals. What seemed to be a routine case of gout turned into a life threatening infection worsened by a weak immune system and complications resulting from type 2 diabetes.
Being identical, the brothers were born with equal genetic propensities. The younger brother could have contracted type 2 diabetes as easily as the elder, but he did not. He could have easily been as overweight as his brother, but he is not. Why is this? What could possibly have made such a difference in the lives of identical twins? At some point, or multiple points, the younger brother made a conscious choice to exercise, eat something healthy, or, better yet, not eat something unhealthy.
These identical twins are a prime example of the fact that small lifestyle choices add up. One might wonder how much greater the elder brother’s quality of life would be if he would have taken simple steps to all around wellness. Every day we are given choices that will have an impact on our health and longevity. Will we ride the elevator or take the stairs? Will we choose organic fruit or a fruit flavored compound of chemicals and genetically modified grains (what one might call a cereal bar)? Will we go for a half hour walk or watch another episode of Seinfeld we’ve seen a dozen times? What will your choice be?