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Alison's model life: We chat to wife of golf ace Darren Clarke

What did the ex-Miss Northern Ireland find out when she underwent a series of tests by Randox Health experts?

By Amanda Ferguson

She is the glamorous Northern Ireland model agency boss who has been at the top of her game for more than 25 years - and is also the other half of Open-winning golf champion Darren Clarke.

Alison Clarke has been turning heads for decades and it seems that "everything in moderation" and an abundance of antioxidants are the keys to her youthful looks.

The astute businesswoman and former Miss Northern Ireland has been credited with transforming her golfer husband into the sleek, stylish dapper gent we saw on our TV screens during his broadcasting debut at this year's Ryder Cup.

This autumn the Belfast Telegraph revealed how Alison had 'turned around her man' and developed Darren's new sophisticated style following his three stone weight loss through a workout programme with Dublin's Educogym trainer Jamie Myerscough. And Darren's tough new fitness regime has also inspired his wife to spend more time in the gym of the Portrush home she shares with the golfer and his two sons.

"Because Darren has got into shape so well with his plan with Educogym I have started to do the same," she says.

"I will use weights in short sharp bursts rather than a lot of cardio.

"I hate the gym, I detest going, but it's one of those things you have to do.

"Some weeks I am not there at all, it depends on my schedule. I don't go if I am tired. I go a maximum of three or four times a week. I don't have any set routines."

To find out the reasons behind her glowing complexion and fresh-faced appearance, Alison was recently put 'under the microscope' by the experts at Randox Health at its new Medispa in the Culloden Hotel, Holywood.

And, not surprisingly, test results revealed the one-time beauty queen is in very good health.

"I eat a lot of fish and green vegetables and try to keep my intake of carbs low," she says. "I love sweet potato and brown rice and I do love the odd plate of chips. Everything in moderation."

As the director of ACA Models, Alison knows the importance of personal confidence and having a good body image - something she instils in the young men and women who work for her. Yet Alison admits to having her own hang ups about the way she looks.

"I have never been comfortable with my appearance, I am always trying to lose weight and stay on top of it," she says.

"Everybody is different, I say each to their own. I am lucky that I have inherited good genes.

"Body image is important in my industry. The girls modelling need to be an 8 or 10, that is the facts of the industry.

"However we do have plus-size models.

"As long as you are confident in yourself and are happy and healthy, that is the main thing."

At Alison's Randox health check, doctors told her a reason for her young appearance was a high level of antioxidants.

"It was quite surprising," she says. "I do try to eat as healthily as possible so it must work."

Antioxidants are found in highest concentration in food with strong colours.

They get their colour from anthocyanins, that have been found to help fight disease and reduce inflammation, so tucking into raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and fresh cranberries helps.

Alison was also told that to combat her slightly high level of 'bad cholesterol' she should embrace good fats in her diet.

"It was a scary experience starting out because you don't know what the results are going to be but it was one of the best things I have done," she says.

"They gave me a booklet, a bible of me, that put my mind at ease.

"I was pleased to learn I am very healthy for my age, height, and weight."

Despite being blessed with good looks and good genes, Alison is reluctant to divulge her birth date.

"I never say!" she says. "I am sure it's out there but I never answer the question - I am unaged!

"When people see my mother they can't believe her age. She never reveals it so that's where I get it from."

Family is very important to the farmer's daughter from Co Tyrone.

"My mum and dad - Helen and Jim Smyth - live in Victoria Bridge, outside Strabane," she says. "They are both in good health. Mum plays golf. Dad is semi-retired but still breeds horses."

Alison is very happy with how her personal and professional life is going and says she is thrilled Darren is happy with his trim new physique and all the positive feedback he is getting from everyone about his inspiring transformation. "He looks great," she agrees. "I didn't want him being thinner than me so I thought I have to take myself in hand!

"He uses the gym a lot more than me. He is more disciplined, but he is a professional sportsman."

Alison has a hectic schedule with work, running her home and looking after Tyrone and Conor, Darren's sons with his late former wife Heather, who sadly died from cancer in 2006.

And she loves spending quality time with the charismatic Dungannon man when he isn't travelling the world playing golf.

"He is away a lot," she says. "It's difficult for me at times to juggle my job, the home and looking after his boys. My sons are in London and San Francisco.

"I look forward to Darren coming back home.

"When he is here he is very hands on so it is like a little holiday for me."

Alison is just back from San Francisco where she was spending time with her son Stuart, who works for Invest NI.

"It was lovely to spend time with him," she says.

"I was connected to the office and family but I didn't have anything to do, which was lovely.

"My son Philip works for Funding Circle in London so I am spending the weekend with him and taking him to Miss World.

"I often combine my work and pleasure." Alison explains she doesn't get much "down time" but does her best to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the North Coast with her friends, Darren and their two Irish Wolfhounds, Cain and Thor.

"I don't really ever have much time to relax," she says. "I am living in Portrush, in the countryside outside the town. We are walking distance from the beach so I will get the lead and walk the beach. Cain and Thor are still pups but are absolutely huge and still being trained so I can't take the two out at once. When Darren is home we take them out together."

A typical day for Alison starts early in the morning with the school run and she arranges her timetable around Darren's sons, Conor and Tyrone.

"I love my bed, it is one of my favourite places but I don't get to spend much time there," she says.

"I work three or four days in Belfast and one day from home.

"I will drop Conor and Tyrone to Dalriada and then drive to Belfast to do all I have to. I arrange my meetings around the school run.

"The boys have lots of after school activities so I juggle my day around what they are doing."

Alison describes herself as an "oddball" who makes lists to ensure she gets everything requiring attention done.

"I don't know if its an age thing but I like to tick everything off my list," she says. "I am old fashioned in that I like pen and paper rather than keying into a phone. I make lists for everything."

Managing stress has got easier for Alison over the years as she has matured and gained perspective.

"If I allowed life to be stressful it could be," she says.

"When I started my business I used to fly off the handle and panic but maturity and experience has led me to be realise there is a solution for every problem.

"I try not to get stressed."

Going under the microscope ...

Following a physical, Randox Health's scientists and doctors delved deep into Alison's biological make up - running up to 300 tests to provide her with a true picture of her health.

The results were encouraging as Randox scientist Dr Laura Mooney explains.

"We look at a person's age, gender, total cholesterol, HDL ('good') cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking and whether he or she has diabetes or not," Dr Mooney said.

"We then add extra factors - obesity (determined by BMI or waist circumference) and family history of premature cardiovascular disease, and adjust the score accordingly.

"The cardiovascular risk score is split into three ranges - low, moderate and high risk. Less than 10% is a low risk, 10 to 20% a moderate risk and more than 20% is a high risk.

"It was great to see Alison's score of 9%, which suggests that she has low risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years."

Despite the good news about her cardiac risk, Alison's levels of LDL or 'bad' cholesterol were on the high side.

Dr Mooney says: "Alison's cholesterol pattern needs some attention, her level of so-called bad cholesterol was high, while the protective, or good cholesterol known as HDL, was low. However, this can easily be addressed through a few tweaks to her diet."

Randox GP Dr Alison Logan has a special interest in nutrition and had this advice for Alison.

"I advised Alison to increase her intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like salmon and avocados," she says.

"Alison has a trim figure and obviously watches her weight, but she shouldn't be afraid to eat more 'good fats'."

The team also found the key to Alison's youthful looks.

Dr Logan says: "We ran a full antioxidant profile on Alison's blood and her levels are excellent.

"Antioxidants are found in fresh fruit and vegetables and fight against free radicals and pollutants which can cause damage to the body.

"Forget expensive skin creams, antioxidants are the key to anti-ageing as they help keep skin supple and young. Alison is clearly onto a good thing."

Alison's verdict

"It was a really good thing for me to do. The nurse was lovely and the GPs I spoke to were great.

"It was very interesting. I have never had such a thorough health check in my life. It was really worthwhile.

"Since the check I have been working to improve my cholesterol and while life is busy, I have been taking time to take better care of myself and have started a new terrific weight-based training regime, with the personal trainer who has been working with Darren.

"I have to return for further testing soon.

"Now I have the blueprint of my health or 'the book of me', I want to make sure that I keep myself on track. Nothing is more important than good health."

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