David van Bodegom works as an assistant professor of Medicine at the Leyden Academy on Vitality & Ageing, a knowledge centre in the field of vitality and ageing, and teaches at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). During his PhD research on ageing in Ghana, Africa, he became intrigued by the variety and flexibility of aging.
Elderly Ghanaians enjoy a high social status and are actively involved in their community. Age-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are practically non-existent. They have blood sugar and cholesterol levels of 18-year-olds, and a BMI of 18.5.
David decided to devote himself to research on ageing, radically changing his career as a physician; ‘I always had the idea that patients came too late’. He is fascinated by the idea that on the one hand healthy aging is as simple as ‘eat less and sit less' and that on the other hand behavioral change proves to be so difficult. Billions are invested in operations, procedures and drugs tot treat cardiovascular disease or diabetes, while in principle we know how everyone can reach the age of 85 in good health.
He does not believe in doctors or governments that prohibit ‘unhealthy behaviors’. He believes people themselves can choose their aging process by shaping their environment in such a way that they healthier choices are made easier or even unconscious. In a healthy environment, healthy aging is not only easy, it can be fun too! If your everyday routine is good, there is also room for the occasional indulgence and pleasure.