If you are preparing a list of New Year’s resolutions and are looking for a starting point, the folks at the American Medical Association annually assemble a list of 10 wellness-focused resolutions that they feel could make the most impactful, long-lasting improvements to your health. You can find the list on their website. After thumbing through my C Force offerings over the past year, I submit the following additional thoughts for your consideration.
DON’T SMOKE — ANYTHING
For many Americans, to quit smoking is an overwhelming desire. I don’t want to belabor the point, given this was the subject matter of my Dec. 20 column, but vaping is causing a resurgence in tobacco use and, thanks to the soaring popularity of vaping, we can add to the list of smokers 1 in 4 American teens. As I reported last January, vaping has caused the biggest one-year spike of any kind in the 44 years of monitoring of substances used by young people. There is compelling new evidence that vaping can cause physical harm and that its connection to tobacco is unavoidable. It is why many public health officials and addiction experts are saying that there is no safe form of vaping and that anyone who vapes should stop.
Want to reduce your risk of dementia in older age? Then move as much as you can. So says a study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The study found that even simple housework like cooking or cleaning may make a difference in brain health as we reach our 70s and 80s. The findings show higher levels of daily movement linked to better thinking and memory skills. A previous study found just 45 minutes of walking three days a week increases brain volume among individuals 65 and older.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that replacing 30 minutes per day of sedentary time with 30 minutes of physical activity at a light intensity was associated with a 17% lower risk of early death.
DON’T SHORTCHANGE SLEEPING
A study from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University has found that sleeping fewer than six hours a night or waking frequently raises your risk of developing damaging plaque not just in your heart but also in arteries throughout your body. This puts you at increased risk for strokes, digestive problems and poor circulation that leads to numbness and pain in your extremities, as well as heart disease.
Sleep is critical to the body’s rejuvenation. Deep sleep, the kind that comes only after a full cycle, is necessary for the body to release hormones designed to repair cells and build tissue in the body and brain. As reported by CNN, researchers found that subjects who slept fewer than six hours a night were 27% more likely to have atherosclerosis throughout the body than those who slept seven to eight hours.
ARE PILLS REALLY THE SOLUTION TO ALL THAT AILS US?
This “is there a pill for everything?” question came to mind recently based on coverage of a news report in The Guardian. It revealed that researchers in this country are working on a new treatment for the problem of loneliness: a pill.
In the medical world, there is a clinical term used to describe the process of nonmedical problems being defined and treated as medical conditions. It is called “medicalization.” Many human problems and conditions have been medicalized and assigned disease terms in the 20th century — and rightly so, based on cultural changes and scientific advances. Following a year when drug approvals hit an all-time high in this country, we can expect a continued supply of new treatments for diseases and conditions, many based on seminal discoveries. Some say there has never been a better time for pharmaceutical research.
Still, there are those who argue that in a world where pharmaceutical companies become actively involved in sponsoring the definition of diseases and promoting them to both prescribers and consumers, financial principles can start to outweigh social ones. According to Stat News, the pharmaceutical industry spent a whopping $7.6 billion on advertising last year. Critics see this as undermining the societal role of doctors, driving patients to ask for particular drugs by name and in effect shifting the conversation to the consumer and the drug company. One area considered most vulnerable to such marketing efforts is psychological health.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Correcting poor eating habits is among the great health challenges of our time. It is a root cause of death, disability and soaring health care costs, and it is even linked to diminished military readiness.
Over the past 70 years, ultraprocessed foods have come to dominate the U.S. diet. This dietary takeover was accelerated beginning in the1950s, when the processed food industry discovered a new psychosensory dimension to our natural attractions to salt, sugar and fat. When engineered and amped up, the processed food industry discovered that these ingredients could be formulated in ways to produce a state of gratification beyond simple satisfaction. Let us call it the “bet you can’t eat just one” syndrome.
We now know that this health crisis is not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer. We also must acknowledge that Big Food — which spends more on marketing than the annual budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — like Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, is a powerful force pushing us in the wrong direction.
Write to Chuck Norris (firstname.lastname@example.org
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