Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Healthier Lifestyles Are Healthier

From the "Really!?" Files:

Researchers have been pumping the whole "Healthier lifestyles cut health risks" angle in all the major news outlets the past week or so. Now, this is a no-brainer and the reports are really more about the actual numbers and statistics than trying to bombard the public with the obvious, but I wanted to touch on this for a second because it is important.

Hopefully by this point, we all know that a healthier lifestyle generally leads to a longer, healthier life. The statistics are a little confusing, because they indicate that moderation is better than teetotaling - but, again, we have been learning that for a decade now. In general, moderate drinking is better for you than not drinking at all, but what is moderate drinking?

Let's use me as an example:

I smoke around a pack a day. Sometimes it's full-flavor (the strong ones) and sometimes it's lights, but it's usually around a pack a day. I do not drink everyday, but when I do drink, I tend to drink to excess. I am not sure if this is "binge-drinking" or not; that is to say, I do not drink more than maybe three times a month - usually it's only once or twice a month - and that's not bad, but when I do drink, I... you know, drink. And I don't mean "a whole six-pack" - I mean until I run out of beer and can no longer get more. Or I pass-out, whichever happens first.

Now, seeing as how I drink far less often than the average drinker, I am technically a "moderate" drinker, but according to some definitions, I am also a "binge-drinker" (see link above). I may not drink that much in a short amount of time, but when I drink, I drink to excess... basically every time. So what does that mean, health-wise?

90% of the time, my drinking does not result in any harm to myself or others (in any fashion - verbally, emotionally, physically, etc - except financially), but there is that other 10%. Of course, I can argue - reasonably - that that is not a bad record; after all, about 10% of the times anyone drinks almost any amount, something adverse occurs!

So, though I fully understand that binge-drinking is unhealthy, I do it so rarely that I have to question just how unhealthy it is. Smoking is bad, no matter what, but I would be even more of a nervous wreck if I didn't, so just how bad is that for me? It helps curb my stress and I have a lot of stress - and stress is worse than smoking. I'm not a doctor, but I'm going to put that out there.

In the end, we need to separate the researchers' control in these results from the reality:

95% of the people I know smoke 1+ packs a day, drink at least a six-pack everyday (or close enough), are overweight, and the only amount of exercise they get is from their daily routine. Compared to them, I'm pretty darned healthy. But I honestly have no idea how I stand-up to these test results.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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