Friday, January 13, 2006

As we return to another Friday The 13th and it's the beginning of the calendar year, it's my chance to get up on my soapbox and share with you what FORBES magazine outlines as "the worst things you can do to your body." Should we find ourselves in any of these categories, it may be time for us to change our behaviors and patterns, see a doctor, take up an active hobby and get outside more.

Having spouted from my soapbox, here is FORBES' list of ...



People are often their own worst enemy. So many of the ailments and afflictions that plague us are our own fault. We eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods, we smoke, we drink and we bake in the sun and poison ourselves with illegal drugs or toxic agents like nail polish remover or scented candles. Is it any wonder that our bodies get sick?

What all these behavioral choices have in common is that we choose to do them. No one makes us smoke or abuse OxyContin. We do it ourselves. And because these actions are purely voluntary, they are also preventable.

In a 1993 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Drs. J. Michael McGinnis and William H. Foege examined the leading causes of nongenetic factors that contribute to death in the U.S., and they determined that they were nearly all linked to lifestyle and behavioral choices. These include tobacco and alcohol and illicit drug use, as well as poor diet and unprotected sex, among other factors. In other words, the majority of deaths stem from doing stupid things to ourselves.


Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Along with other forms of tobacco, it kills more than 400,000 Americans each year. It contributes to many cases of cancer, mainly of the lungs and other organs, as well as cardiovascular disease. Although smoking poses major health risks, that doesn't seem to stop enough people. In 2004, more than 20% of the U.S. population smoked.


More than 60% of the U.S. population, 20 years old and older, are obese. Deaths due to poor nutrition and lack of exercise are increasing. Every year about 400,000 people die from one or both. It is difficult to separate the two categories because they usually both result in obesity. That doesn't mean you can eat what you want and simply exercise more, or vice versa. For proper health, you must have a balance of each.


In 2004, only about 30% of Americans took part in some form of regular leisure-time physical activity. The rest were sedentary. Getting plenty of exercise will improve heart conditions, give you more energy and help you sleep well at night. It correlates directly with obesity problems, and each year the combination of lack of exercise and poor nutrition kill about 400,000 people a year, with the numbers rapidly increasing.


Almost 100,000 deaths were caused by misuse of alcohol in 2004. Abusing the booze can give you liver cirrhosis or cancer. If that isn't enough to kill you, it also increases your chances of fatal accidents--for instance, in a car or drowning. In 2004, about 20% of adults had five or more drinks in one day at least once in the past year. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis killed almost 30,000 Americans, while there were about 20,000 alcohol-induced deaths that don't include accidents or homicides.


About 80,000 Americans die each year from some type of infectious illness (not including HIV), and some of them could possibly be prevented. Many infection-control measures, like immunizations, prevent about 100 million other infections. Infections, like influenza and pneumonia, used to be the leading cause of death in the United States and are still a large threat, especially to people with prior health problems.


We can't help but be exposed to toxins, whether it's at the job, in the environment or in the food we eat and drink. But they account for about 60,000 deaths among Americans each year. They can include exposure to dyes, mineral dust, and air pollutants that contribute to problems like allergies and asthma. But even more seemingly innocuous products, like some makes of paraffin candle, contain carcinogens.


If you aren't using protection during sex, you're increasing your risk of death. Each year about 20,000 people die in the U.S. from preventable sexual diseases, and millions more are infected with a sexually transmitted disease. The two leading STDs are HIV, with an estimated number of 14,000 deaths in 2002, and hepatitis, with about 5,800 deaths that year.


Millions of Americans have serious drug problems, and almost 15,000 die annually from illicit drug use. There's a reason why drugs are regulated: They are harmful and potentially fatal, not to mention addictive. Drugs increase your chances of being in an automobile accident and contracting HIV and other STDs.


According to the American Cancer Society, almost 8,000 people will die from melanoma, the deadly skin cancer associated with tanning. Tanning wasn't on the CDC's list of top actual causes of death, but we included it because of rising cases of melanoma. There aren't studies that prove tanning is the result of the increase in deaths, but we do know there is a correlation.


Post Note: Please note that I am only sharing with you the list that FORBES magazine has put out, based on research reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association. While I don't advocate the majority of the practices above, I must admit that I do very much enjoy a chilled martini or a day in the sun at times.

And although I would agree with the list above of the "worst physical things we can do to our body," I would like to add a worst mental/metaphysical thing we do to our body, which often times has more of an adverse effect than some of the items above... and this one thing can lead us down the path of engaging in these items above. It is the practice of "I don't deserve..." and "I just can't..."

I'm not talking about the mental practice of telling ourselves, "I deserve...", as in "I deserve a raise" or "I deserve a better parking place or promotion." There seems to be enough practice of self-inflation within our society; so many feeling that they are owed something for having not done anything. I'm talking about the mental practice of telling ourselves, "I don't deserve... to be loved... to be happy... to be vital..." It's no wonder that people in general have gotten more and more rude with one another - the way we see ourselves on the inside is the way we often treat others. It is a mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically crippling practice that strips our spirit one layer at a time. We all deserve to be loved, to be happy and to be vital. And we all owe it to ourselves to love ourselves, to be good to ourselves and to feel vital in Life.

Second, when I say "I just can't...", I am referring to the multiple buts we carry around each day. "I would like to get more exercise but..." and "I would like to get involved but..." With so many buts being dragged around, it's no wonder we're tired by the end of the week. We owe it to ourselves to stop this debilitating practice of "can't"ing ourselves to death. In raising an 8-year-old and 2-year-old triplets on a daily basis, I have to believe that we can do almost everything we set out to do and what we can't do, God can finish for us. It's that simple. We may not ever run a marathon in under 4 hours, but we can get out and walk. We may never serve as an influential world leader, but we can serve as an impactful member of our family and community.

You can do it - whatever you set your mind in accomplishing. If you don't believe it, call me. And you do deserve to be loved and happy. If you don't believe it, call me as well.

Perhaps we need to put down those extra french fries, go out with a friend and reaffirm each other on all that lies ahead to be accomplished in our individual lives. What a great fitness plan for 2006.