Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.
In recent weeks the media has inundated us with various perspectives
attempting to judge what has been the most significant event, who has
been the most influential person or what has been the most important
technological development to impact us in the twentieth century. They
range from the ridiculous (the sexiest movie star--voted by people
who never viewed a movie produced before 1960) to the most thought
provoking (is our way of life affected more by advances that prolong
life or people who create mass destruction) to queries about which
technological advances (plane? auto? computer?) have had the most
impact on our life.
Last week The Center for Disease Control and Prevention joined in by listing what their organization believed to be the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. They are (the envelope, please!):
Personally my guess was that #4 saved more lives. My parents were health professionals who began their medical careers before antibiotics were available to cure infection. Mother was head pediatric nurse at John Hopkins University. She speaks passionately of her experience helplessly watching young children die from simple ear infections until the first sulfa drugs, then streptomycin and penicillin were introduced. Without antibiotics I'm convinced neither of my children would be alive today.
Health care has changed significantly in other ways. Depending on how it is viewed, the evolving picture can look good or bad. We've left the agrarian economy behind for a more sedentary lifestyle in offices, behind desks and in front of computer terminals. For most of us, exercise is a scheduled activity. Even the way we exercise has evolved from walking and running to the use of sophisticated machinery and exercise patterns that range from simple aerobics to more sophisticated adventure training and kickboxing classes. We attempt to merge Eastern and Western philosophies by blending yoga, pilates and martial arts into a traditional cardio program. We've learned how to train specific muscles and enhance our oxygen uptake to attain peak performance. It's mind boggling how much time we spend figuring out how to exercise when we consider the fact so few people still do.
Additionally our diet contains more calories, including empty calorie fat and sugar than that of our parents or grandparents. At the turn of the century being plump was a sign of success. Men had paunches and women emphasized substantial hips with a corset. Then the economy shifted and the agrarian culture became an industrial one. Food became plentiful and everyone got fatter. Soon the pendulum took a swing and it became chic to be thin. But instead of stopping at healthy we became a nation obsessed with being skinny. Now print ads, movies and TV sitcoms feature gaunt models and "stars" who profess they simply have a high metabolism. Research has revealed new classes of micronutrients and the entrepreneurial society has responded. We spend more than $40 billion a year buying pills and potions hawked by well trained media personalities whose messages leave us so confused we don't know who to trust.
The good news is that all the above also offers us an extraordinary range of choices to assure our longer life is a healthy one. Folks born in 1900 had a life expectancy of 45 years old. Those Smuckers birthday personalities on the Today show are the exception to the rule. Now most of us can expect to live into an eighth or ninth decade. With wise use of our resources in the early decades of life and maintaining or building new patterns in the later ones (it's never too late!) we'll be hiking, biking and enjoying life when we get there.
Enough proselytizing. Have a safe and happy new year whether it's spent quietly in the safety of your home, raucously with friends and/or family or amid the crowds in the center of towns nationwide. Next week I'll deliver practical suggestions and resources to help you forge a New Millennium lifestyle that assures that good health.
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