As millions of baby boomers approach or have already entered their 60’s, thoughts of end times—as in their personal end times—become more frequent. Never before has so much media been devoted to optimizing health in the later years of one’s life.
Of course, there never before has been as much media, and there has never been such a large cohort entering this age group either, but that’s really beside the point. We are besieged by direct to consumer ads for prescription drugs (“…ask your doctor about [brand name drug]…”); home fitness products and high-priced gyms promote themselves constantly; and thousands of books and periodicals promise us the latest tips to avoid the ravages of killer diseases.
However, much of the advice out there is confusing at best:
We are to avoid the sun to prevent skin cancer, but lack of sun exposure is producing a deficiency in Vitamin D, and this vitamin is said to be effective in preventing colon cancer—now the third most common form. You can supplement D, but only D-3 is effective in this context.
Too much fat is bad, but a relatively high intake of omega-3 fats is beneficial. Omega-6 fats, on the other hand, can be bad for you, but are essential for brain and nerve function. As such, it is the ratio of these fats in your diet that is important. Authorities suggest that the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be 1:1, but the typical American’s ratio ranges from 15:1 to 50:1.
You heard for years that too much saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet were responsible for heart disease. Yet, the statistics disprove this. During the sixty-year period from 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four. And these were exactly the years in which the incidence of heart disease climbed.
In the famed Framingham study, that started in 1948, two groups were compared at five-year intervals—those who consumed little cholesterol and saturated fat and those who consumed large amounts. By 1988, the director of this study noted:
“…the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol…”
One of the unexpected findings was that weight gain and cholesterol levels had an inverse correlation with fat and cholesterol intake in the diet.
Exercise is good since it has been shown to lower blood pressure, and promote better heart health. Yet, some say that strenuous exercise (including aerobics) can increase free radical production, due to prolonged increases in metabolism.
This is all very entertaining, but what is my point?
I contend that the road to good health should not be this complicated, and that much of the contradictory “breakthrough” information we are being given simply represents the anecdotal stages of knowledge being accumulated, which has yet to be refined in the harsh reality of actual experience. Moreover, this is exacerbated by Big Pharma and others jumping on each new trend.
Good old common sense needs to assume a greater role. We’ve always known that being overweight is unhealthy, and that people who exercise and don’t smoke seem to be in better shape than those who practice the opposite.
Are we being scared into unnecessary and expensive diagnostic procedures and drug therapies? In some cases, surely we are, and some of us are probably willing accomplices to over-treatment.
A friend of mine, employed by a large federal government agency, tells the story of his elderly mother who was diagnosed as depressive decades ago, and was subjected to highly aggressive, and ultimately pointless drug and electroshock therapy. At times, the drugs were contraindicated to the shock treatments, but somehow this did not matter.
Since all that occurred was in line with the conventional modality, insurance and later Medicare dutifully paid up, despite the fact that the woman never got any better, but simply emerged from the depressions either as a function of time, or because something in her life changed, and brought her out of them.
Sad to say, the years of “health care” have taken their toll, and one wonders what would have happened if she were ever simply challenged by friends and family members to snap out of it, since the episodes and their endings—according to my friend—were quite suspiciously timed. Reflecting on her life and all the fruitless time spent with health care providers, it would seem that the poor woman now really does have something to be depressed about.
The lesson is for all of us to do what should come naturally: Take more of an ownership interest in our own health, and not be swayed by all the expert opinion, changing as it seems to by the week.