Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Live Long and Prosper

Three kinds of lies, the saying does, lies, damned lies, and statistics. Attributed variously to Mark Twain, Benjamin Disraeli, and–more likely–Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, a well-known rake. 

Research on this topic takes some poking and prodding, but the general indicators are that, as a class, rich people live longer than poor people. One might make the leap that access to better medical care could be part of that. Plus a choice of diets, and the ability to avoid extremes of weather, exercise, and so on. While some physical exercise is beneficial, too much is not. If you rupture a disk and you have to dig ditches in spite of that, it's not good.

As a class, professionals live longer than unskilled laborers. Education matters, when you can make a smarter and more informed choice about what might be good or bad for you. Again, there's that less wear-and-tear, and other socio-economic factors–free time, and such things like smoking, drinking, and not getting enough rest, most of which occur more amongst the poor than the rich.

Among professionals, the divisions get iffier, but from what I can find, symphony conductors tend to live the longest, and journalists and writers kick off sooner.

Moving around, waving your arms, and being in a clean and usually smoke-free environment making music seem to offer benefits that sitting in a chair, smoking, drinking, eating crappy food and not getting much, if any exercise do not.

Live, fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse is an amusing saying, but pretty much not true. If you die young, you probably caught some terrible disease, or got killed in an accident, and wrapping your 'vette around a tree leaves an ugly corpse. So does crack, crank, and most things that living fast do to you ...

All of this is subject to genetics, of course. Choosing your parents wisely is a big factor. If every man in your family on both sides lived to be ninety whilst chain-smoking Camels and quaffing a quart of rotgut whiskey every day, that really does matter, too.

Still and all, I have for a long time been telling writers I bump into to get up and move around from time to time, on the chance that it might increase their odds of staying here longer. I mean, if I like their work and want to see more of it, I don't want them to die. Purely selfish on my part. 

No guarantees, of course, but I believe that diet and exercise shade the odds in your favor; at the very least, they improve the quality of what life you do have, and probably add time to the end.

I bring this up because a writer I know who isn't that much older than I, is ill, and the unspoken but hinted at prognosis doesn't sound good. At this point, me offering that clearing out the cobwebs,  stirring the bones into movement, and cutting back on cheeseburgers and fries might not bring anything useful to the table. If you expect to be gone next Friday, that last Whopper with bacon and cheese probably won't matter. Get the tattoo.

Even poor people these days have more choices than our ancestors did, and I hereby offer that some simple and basic lifestyle things might be useful across the board: If you work too hard, ease up. If you sit too much, get up. If you eat too much, cut down. If you try to pickle your liver or your brain in booze, eventually you will. Pay attention. It matters.

Yes, we all end up at the same destination, but the length of the journey and the fun we have along the way can sometimes be made longer and more joyful. 

Something to think about.  

1 comment:

Scott said...

There's a broad economic trend toward obesity that I'd like to mention because I recently figured out how to subvert it.

Food is getting cheaper and more delicious every year; what did you think would happen to waistlines?

But: if you cherrypick you can use this trend to *lose* weight. My current example is Simply Orange with Pineapple juice; it's so delicious that a big glass makes a fine breakfast; I've lost over 30# and 7" (waist) since I started buying it in December. Never happened before because there was never a fruit juice this delicious readily commercially available before.