We all wish one another, at least in English, a “happy” new year. But aside from the resolutions attendant to this time, we forget that a major component of happiness is another “h” word—health. So let’s take a look at some not-so-obvious health issues, with thanks to the LATimes for, over the last three years, providing the fodder for this piece.
“Study: Prevention saves lives, money” a front page title announced (Oct. 3, 2007). What a stunning revelation! Who’d a’ thunk it? A graph showing the potential annual savings in direct costs and indirect effects of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, mental disorders, diabetes, pulmonary conditions, and stroke, totaled $1.121 trillion in 2023 in the U.S. The key here is prevention, and not just treatment, and we all know the way to do this—eat less, eat your veggies, get exercise, go easy on the flesh consumption—hence our new-year-diet-resolution mania. The article cites the question: Who’s to pay for this? Seems simple to me. Rein in the obscene advertising of pseudo food, heavily tax it (“Junk-food tax idea is gaining weight,” Aug. 23, 2009), and eat like your grandparents did. You might also check out what seems to be a pretty interesting new book by Mike Pollan, Food Rules, which he promotes in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-pollan/food-rules-a-completely-d_b_410173.html). He gives a few examples. My favorite is: If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. But if this kind of common sense is insufficient to the task of getting you to reduce your McDonald’s, Coke, Cheetos, and frozen processed food (Swanson Hungry-Man dinners anyone? Are those even still available? Happily, I don’t know the answer to that question!) consumption, and increase your tomato, “organic” flesh, fresh food, and homemade intake, then maybe this title is: “Study links maternal obesity, birth defects” (Aug. 7, 2007).
Sometimes, though, despite our best efforts, we will be afflicted. And, some of those blows may be terminal. Yet, these terminal conditions may have potential, not-fully-tested remedies. Unfortunately, the inescapable, harsh logic of “I-have-nothing-to-lose, shoot-me-up-with-any-possible-remedy ‘cause-I’m-dead anyway” seems to have gone over the head of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (“Court denies test drugs to dying patients,” Aug. 8, 2007). These are drugs that have been found to be safe for human use, but whose effectiveness is not yet clear. Seems to me that a person in such a state ought to have the choice of how they die, if indeed the drugs don’t work. It also seems to me that it would benefit those researching the efficacy of the drug by having one more subject for their research. We have to start appreciating just how terminal death is and acting accordingly. No one should be forced into a drug regimen, but neither should they be denied access to it legalistically (a host of other factors might mitigate against a particular patient’s use of the treatment).
But not all health issues lie in the physical realm.
“Please, ‘go outside and play’” (May 15, 2008) impishly presents the same theme as an email you’ve probably gotten (thrice in the last five years in all likelihood). The concern is the over-protection, over-scheduling, over-controlling, over-worrying about human threats to—children. It is to such a point that kids don’t go out and play. They go to soccer practice, music lessons, tutoring, “play-dates” (what an obnoxious concept!), etc. Everything has to be planned and overseen. What a bunch of tightly wound freaks we’re probably creating (at least) in the U.S.! The best statistic mentioned is that the likelihood of a child being kidnapped is about the same as s/he being struck by lightning! So parent, please, lighten up! This need for “down-time” is also pointed out in “Goofing off like Einstein” (Sept. 11, 2008). The author points out that Einstein got his brain on track to come up with “special relativity” while daydreaming at his job as a Swiss patent office clerk. We can’t plan everything, foresee every eventuality, and pre-empt every risk. That’s just not how life on this planet works. And if we do attempt to do so, we will fail miserably and make ourselves miserable in the process, and our children along with us.
And speaking of misery, there’s the whole dating/mating game and all it imposes, especially on women in this post-“women’s lib” era. I was led to the Atlantic magazine’s piece “Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough,” by reading “Mr. Good enough, and child” (Feb. 23, 2008), which was critical of the original article. Simply, it advises women to be, what I would term, wise. Instead of rejecting all possible mates (assuming that’s what you want of course) because they’re not ideal, the author, Lori Gottlieb, advocates settling for someone who is workable. She writes that women tend to be in the position of having to “settle” more often than men do, but I’m firmly convinced that’s not the case. Everyone’s a package of “goods” and “bads.” We have to select the particular mix of those that we think is actually workable, tolerable, acceptable. Some people are fortunate enough to find their ideal, their “soulmate,” but they’re the exceptions, not the rule. So ladies, and gents, be wise, we’ll all be less miserable. (And here, I’ll apologize to Tamar Kevonian for stomping on her topical-territory.)
Here’s to a more healthful, physically, mentally, and psychologically/spiritually new year to everyone, nationwide. Being so will help our cause too.