2003 June | Part A, Section C – Summary

Read the following passage carefully and answer, in your own words as far as possible, the question that follows.

The dramatic increase in life expectancy globally towards the end of the twentieth century has renewed interest among scientists and laymen alike in the subject of longevity and the aging process. This lengthening of life expectancy has been one of the greatest achievements of humanity. It was in recognition of this fact that the United Nations formally designated 1999 as the “International Year of Older Persons”. Demographers tell a surprising story: octogenarians and older people, instead of the young, now form the fastest growing population group on earth.

What then are the factors that determine man’s health and the length of his life? Recent studies have identified some of these. It is known that the sounder your habits the longer your life may last. Nutritionists have told us that we are what we eat, that is to say, that what we eat influences the state of our health. Instead of over-eating, one should eat a balanced diet including fruit and plenty of vegetables. Moderate physical exercise on a regular basis is of immense benefit. The family doctor should be consulted on how much exercise and what type are most appropriate for each individual. Studies have shown that simple exercise in and around the home help the elderly to regain strength and vitality.

The adage “use it or lose it” applies not only to the muscles but also to the mind. Mental exercise keeps the brain’s “telephone lines” alive whereas mental decline or senility starts the moment a person retires and decides to take things easy in the erroneous belief that he doesn’t have to keep up with the world anymore. Many retired civil servants fall into this bad habit. They can change this unhealthy habit by being actively engaged in reading, travel, education, clubs, professional associations etc. It is believed that such activities not only lift the spirit but also “rewire” the brain.

In addition to these in the environment. In many developing countries, the environment poses grave dangers to health, often resulting in preventable deaths. Access to clean safe water is severely limited. There are huge mountains of refuse breeding vermin, cockroaches and disease-causing germs in both rural and urban areas. All this contributes to the low life expectancy in these countries. Better sanitation, safer water for all and a reduction of vermin in the home will improve man’s environment, bolster his health and extend his life span.

The next factor is the state of medical care available in our countries. In the developed countries, advances in medical science have dramatically improved health care delivery. Unfortunately, the reverse has been the case in the poor countries of Africa and Asia. For example, in the USA, only one woman in 12,500 dies from pregnancy-related causes whereas one in 21 dies in Africa from the same cause! That speaks volumes about the deplorable state of our medical services.

Finally, man has made a breakthrough in controlling his genetic make-up. A decade or so ago, he had no control whatsoever over his genetic engineering. Now, he can redesign his genetic constitution to ensure better health and longer life.


In six sentences, one for each, state the factors that improve man’s health and life span.

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