Lifestyle and the Axis of Evil (November 22, 2016)
Last time we were talking about health and lifestyle. And how because about 60% of your general health can be directly attributed to your lifestyle, you can’t ignore it. Even if your genes are FABULOUS and all your predecessors lived to be 100 years old despite smoking, eating only philly cheese steaks and installing asbestos insulation for a living.
That is because not only do you get sick less often when you take proper care of yourself, you will also most likely recover from any physical setbacks more completely and more rapidly, and we can all use a little healthy wiggle room. Plus, if your genes are not great, a healthy lifestyle can make up for them. If there is someone out there with genes so great that they can ignore lifestyle influences, I haven't met them.
But how SHOULD you live? What's a healthy lifestyle? Well, there’s no lack of rules on THAT subject. Ever since we all figured out that it was much better to swing through the trees with a buddy than it was to do so alone, those buddies have been happy to lay down rules for How We Should Live.
Of course now we have Science. And Science is no exception to this rule. It is as eager as your mom to tell you how you should live your life. Technically science should have better reasons for ordering you around than does your mom (once you’re eighteen and out of the house, anyway). But remember that Science has only been around in its present form for a relatively short time compared to the length of time that humans have actually been making observations and forming opinions about what’s a good way to live and what isn’t. So we definitely should embrace Science, but not sideline Tradition.
Right now American science will tell us that the average adult needs to exercise, eat properly, get enough sleep, avoid any drugs that they don’t make a profit from, and reduce stress. The exercise rules for your basic adult are 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise and two sessions of weight training a week. The “eat properly” can be succinctly summed up in “eat good food, not too much, mostly plants”. Sleep is at least seven hours a night, and most people who think they are getting by on less, really aren’t. Regarding the drugs, well, we know tobacco and excess alcohol are bad news, so let’s duck the rest of that subject for now. The "reduce stress" is kind of a joke these days, sadly, regardless of its importance; but yeah, do it if you can.
But then also there’s culture and tradition. And it happened that while I was researching this I ran into a non-Western (and non-Chinese) scientific research article that discussed the subject of healthy lifestyle from kind of a different cultural viewpoint. Dr. Farhud had nine points to discuss, and his points (and comments) are in italics below, with mine following.
1. Diet and Body Mass Index (BMI): Diet is the greatest factor in lifestyle. I’m with Dr. Farhud on this one.
2. Exercise: The continuous exercise along with a healthy diet increases the health. Nothing to add to this one either. If you don’t exercise, you really aren’t healthy.
3. Sleep: Sleep cannot be apart from life. I don’t get this thing where people boast about how little they sleep, and I never have. Shakespeare said that sleep “knit up the raveled sleeve of care" and was "chief nourisher in life's feast". And you know who HE was.
4. Sexual behavior: Normal sex relation is necessary in healthy life. Dysfunction of sex relation is the problem of most of societies and it has a significant effect on mental and physical health. It can be said that dysfunctional sex relation may result in various family problems or sex related illnesses like; AIDS. You can tell right here that this wasn’t an American research article, can’t you? Guess what, fellow American Puritans! The only thing that your genes have ever really cared about is whether or not you reproduce. That, and only that, is what evolution is all about. There isn’t anything a whole lot more normal for a human than sexual behavior. Everyone does it, and you should be too. One way or another. But no federal guidelines on this one yet.
5. Substance abuse: Addiction is considered as an unhealthy life style. Dr. Farhud then went after smoking and the “hubble bubble” (the hookah) here. Americans don’t smoke nearly as much as the rest of the world, and not as much as we used to. But it really is bad for you. If you do still smoke and you can't or won't quit, do you suppose you could cut back a bit?
6. Medication abuse: Improper usage of same, including overuse and improper prescription of same; doctors came in here for as much grief from Dr. Farhud as patients. Medications are strong stuff. Keep them to the genuinely necessary minimum.
7. Application of modern technologies: (U)sing of computer and other devices up to midnight, may effect on the pattern of sleep and it may disturb sleep. Addiction to use mobile phone is related to depression symptoms. Good for you, Dr. Farhud!
8. Recreation: Neglecting leisure can bring negative consequences. With disorganized planning and unhealthy leisure, people endanger their health. Here’s another one for us overworked American Puritans. We feel guilty about leisure activities, so when we finally give up and indulge, they are often unhealthy.
9. Study: Study is the exercise of soul. Placing study as a factor in lifestyle may lead to more physical and mental health. For example, prevalence of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease is lower in educated people. Study could slow process of dementia. How many people study anything with any seriousness once they are done with their formal education?
He did not list "stress" as such, although he mentioned it in the body of the paper, which you can read here if you want to:
But he addressed it several times indirectly. And maybe that’s the way to look at it. Sometimes I think that making “stress” an issue in itself makes it harder to get a grip on the reasons for it.
Anyway, there you go. Lifestyle is important, we don't know all the answers, and there are a couple of new things to think about above from a culture (Persia/Iran, if you hadn't already guessed) that has been around since about 4000 B.C. People are often fascinated with the Far East, at least partly because its ideals of moderation, balance, and so forth are so different from ours, and if implemented can supply some of its lacks. So here is a bit from the Near East that may give some different insight as well, as it did for me.
--dr. diane holmes
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