Two thirds of the world is worried about staying alive.
Most Americans are worried about dying.
There is a difference. A big difference.
The contrast was underscored this week by the release of yet another study of what can kill you. This time it is not enough salt.
Too much salt kills. Not enough salt kills. Why don’t researchers save everyone a bunch of money and time and simply issue a report that says if you want to live a healthy life, read “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Health obviously is about getting it right. It’s called moderation. Not too much, not too little.
The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine involving 100,000 people in 17 countries concludes low sodium intake can increase the chance of death, heart attacks and stroke which is exactly what too much salt consumption does.
The real bottom line is this: All research ends up looking for the middle, or common ground in results. It isn’t one size fits all. If it were, there would be hard fast guarantees that exact behavior will always produce specific results.
Much of the world would view the squabble over salt and the dueling health studies as irrelevant. They’re more worried about getting enough food, accessing clean and safe water, and being able to dispose of human waste and garbage in such a manner that it doesn’t spread diseases and attract rodents.
They’d love to have the luxury to fret whether too much salt or not enough salt will kill them.
What we take for granted is staggering. It is also mind-boggling what we fret over.
We flip a handle and waste that not very long ago would have been a chore to try to dispose of so that it wouldn’t attract flies, mar our home with offensive odors, or provide a breeding ground for diseases is gone. Much of India would view toilets and our wastewater treatment system as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Clean and adequate water — a major concern for much of the planet’s population — isn’t given a second thought. It’s so bad that despite clear evidence that we are in a severe drought with the chances of it getting worse strong, many of us make no effort to conserve. People in many parts of Africa, Asia, and South America treat water like gold because that’s exactly what it is.
We have lost touch with basic human struggles in this country — even the poor among us — that we actually believe giving the world universal access to Facebook will bring prosperity and good health to all.
With smugly think if they just had smartphones and could download apps they would never worry about how to feed themselves or stay healthy again.
The truth is the basics —clean water, effective sanitary systems, plentiful unspoiled food, basic shelter, and basic health care provided by a general physician or nurse — are the building blocks to a longer and healthier life.
Our obsession with avoiding the onset of death now that we don’t have to focus on staying alive leads to contradicting studies. A new medical breakthrough that can help to avoid death from one specific cause often enhances the chances of you dying from something else.
If you doubt that pay attention to the TV commercials for various drugs. After the announcer tells you that whatever he is hawking will address your current medical concerns fairly effectively he continues in a soothing voice to tell you that it could also cause you to have suicidal tendencies, anxiety, dry throat, stroke, shingles, heart attacks and in extreme cases death.
That would prompt a rationale person to think twice before popping a new miracle pill. But we’re beyond being rationale about our longevity. Because we’re not dropping dead sooner as we used to and since 45 was once what being 75 is today, we approach health issues as if we’re invincible.
Salt intake — too much or not enough— wouldn’t be an issue if staying alive was what drove us.
Staying alive would have us focused on taking care of our bodies, not abusing them. And it certainly would involve embracing instead of taking for granted basics that we have. A prime example is our tap water. Without a doubt it is among the safest — if not the safest — water in the world. Yet many of us have a phobia about drinking it opting instead to spend $12 billion a year on bottled water which — surprise, surprise— more often than not comes from the same treatment plant as out tap water.
But because we focus on not dying, we have become convinced that a magical pill, a surgical procedure or a small change in our diet is the key to longevity.
Our mindset is why healthcare in this country is so costly and often not very effective at improving our general well being.
— This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.