Friday, April 12, 2013

Abusing Our Bodies and Ourselves


Young people, in particular, love nature.  They defend it fiercely from fossil fuels and carbon-spewing power plants. They happily reject plastic shopping bags and insist on organic produce.

You would think that this would translate into excellent health. After all, every individual human being is responsible for the one tiny piece of nature that is his or her body.

What does it say if you are willing to go to the mat to defend the Delta smelt but treat your own body like something to use and abuse until it wears out?

For the sake of argument I will assume that when it comes to enhanced environmental awareness young Americans and young Western Europeans are on roughly the same page.

If so, the health of younger European adults will correlate reasonably with that of their American peers..

The Daily Mail reported the results of the most recent and comprehensive study of the health of today’s adults:

Today's adults are so unhealthy they are 15 years 'older' than their parents and grandparents at the same age, researchers say.

They are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity than previous generations because of poor health, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Looking at 6,000 adults aged 20, 30, 40, 50 over a 25 year period, researchers found younger generations had poorer 'metabolic' health - a range of issues including blood pressure and weight.

The study revealed men in their 30s were 20 per cent more likely to be overweight than in previous generations, while women in their 20s are twice as likely to be obese than those 10 years ago.

Blood pressure also increased among the younger generation of both men and women, while younger blokes are more likely to have diabetes than their dads and granddads were.

Why more diabetes? The study suggests that since fewer young people smoke, they compensate by overeating. Being more obese they run a greater risk of contracting diabetes.

Some people eat to self-medicate. Others overeat because they do not understand the need for self-control.

Americans are notoriously obese, but they believe firmly in not putting any artificial chemicals into their bodies.

Yet, these same Americans have no problem taking large doses of inorganic, synthetic chemicals when they are called medication.

Linda Carroll reports for Today:

Can’t sleep? Take a pill to knock you out. Problems focusing? Take a pill to boost your attention. Feel edgy? Take a pill to calm you down.

While there is no question that modern medicines help us manage pain and save lives by staving off potentially fatal illnesses like heart disease, there can be a darker side to prescription drugs that can sometimes lead to addiction, and even death.

These days Americans are taking more prescription medications than ever, with nearly 16 million scripts written for painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone and tramadol each year, according to IMS Health. A full 5 million prescriptions are written for sleep aids, while 18 million are written for anti-depressants, according to the healthcare information company.

Dr. Jeffrey Avron of the Harvard Medical School notes that we Americans are leading the world in drug consumption.

As Dr. Gail Saltz points out, we believe in quick fixes. But we also practice sloth. On the one hand we’re in a hurry. On the other, we are too lazy to take care of our bodies.

Too many Americans and Europeans are unwilling to put in the time and effort to stick to an exercise regimen and to develop healthy eating habits.

You know and I know, and Dr. Saltz confirms, that many cases of depression and anxiety and insomnia can be treated by good habits.

By using medication to control our moods we are abusing our bodies. We feel entitled to the body’s pleasures and we insist on suppressing the body’s pains.

By using biochemistry, we are trying to exert control over our bodies. If our bodies tell us something that we do not want to hear—as in, that we should change our diet or exercise more—we prefer to suppress the message with medication. 

12 comments:

Unknown said...

I recently read a book called Pandora's Lunchbox about the chemistry and science that goes into making modern-day processed foods.

Stephen King couldn't have ever dreamed up anything so horrifying.

Bobbye said...

Options or choice is the " problem" if you want to call it that. Americans (39% of the wealth of the world) and Europeans (31% of the wealth of the world ) have hundreds of options in our life and lifestyle that we didn't have years ago. In the Mail article it did mention that dispite the overall poor health, people live longer and are expected to live longer. More unhealthy years for more choices.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I too find it bizarre that people are going to live longer while doing what they can be make themselves unhealthy. I suppose that they will compensate for their bad habits by becoming consumers of the best that medical science has to offer.

Anonymous said...

Statistics on longevity and health can be deceptive. Life expectancy has gone up due to abundance of food, basic advances in health codes and understanding of the biological mechanisms of certain diseases (prevention), sewer and sanitation systems.

Simultaneously a person is given an intellectual education also containing the message "sit down, shut up, and listen to me" instead of learning modes of interaction in which one has an "authentic voice" in the community. How do we teach each other to listen and hear if children "should be seen and not heard?" The media blitz puts images in the brain which no tribal culture could ever induce even if one were to live hundreds of years, a teenage has all these images circulating in his or her brain along with the hormones in his or her body.

A psychiatrist who prescribes a pill for everything is basically abdicating the process of self - other communication necessary to the job we might call "good parenting." So are parents who work long hours to get money for basic necessities and have not enough time to communicate with the younger generation. The profit motive has a strong influence on the trend toward absentee parents and this explains the problems of a lost generation as much as anything else.

Bobbye said...

@ Anonymous, Thy name is Legion. Is the cause of longivity what is deceptive? For the rest of your post... HUH?

Anonymous said...

In statistics the rule is "correlation is not causation." Because the factors that impact longevity are complex and widely distributed, statistics cannot say for certain what is or is not a cause of longevity. Applying the law of large numbers a high correlation is equated to causation, but then the experts will say, "correlation is not causation." Maybe the statistics don't mean a damn thing!

However we know that better water supplies, more calories in early childhood, understanding how to prevent and treat disease, these are the primary causes of longevity. These causes are socially created for us. No one individual can claim "I built that" with regard to the advances. Who helps us have longevity? Their name is Legion.

Stuart S. is saying that some individuals nonetheless make bad choices. Bad choices are based on poor formative experience in the society. Individuals might know what is better to do and still not be able to do it. Saint Paul said, "That which I would do I do not, and that which I would not do, is that which I do." If Saint Paul had poor impulse control how hard it must be for children who are influenced by the media with all sorts of images to copy, to decide what to do, especially if we do not educate the emotions at the heart of the ability to reason or anticipate and regulate cause and effect.

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Dennis said...

Anon,

There is a reason it is called "Statistical Inference" instead of statistical fact. Your point about the complexity of the contributing factors is well taken.
I agree that sewer, and especially sanitation are one of the main factors in longevity. That does not mean that one can ignore those things that make a healthy existence. We probably have not gotten enough information on what the unhealthy lifestyles of people who live today to make any rational decision on whether they will actually live longer.
I am beginning to believe that the reason our children are so susceptible to disease is that we try to live in a too pristine environment. This does not allow their immune systems time to develop all of the strengths that it needs to protect us. It just gets overpowered by disease when it first experiences it if it recognizes it at all. A little dirt never hurt anyone so to speak.
We always pay for abusing anything. Pay me now or pay me latter.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I believe that I have heard this idea before, Dennis, but I can't remember where. Either way, it seems perfectly plausible to me.

Dennis said...

I used to love keeping both saltwater and freshwater fish. I went into great detail in creating their natural environments. Real plants, real sunken trees, et al.
I had a couple of tanks devoted to corals that were just absolutely beautiful. I decided, for some reason, that I wanted to ensure the cleanliness of their environment. They started to slowly die on me because I forgot to consider that I was actually removing their food from them and that like much of existence one cannot survive if one removes its ability to deal with life as it is and not how one would like it to be.
Wisdom far exceeds education and a lot of that comes from experiences.

Bob said...

Important topic. I am a Wal-Mart cashier. You would not believe the crap I put in bags all day long. I have linked to you here: http://bobagard.blogspot.com/2013/04/medication-or-good-habits.html

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the link, Bob.