Health and Longevity

Two people died during the Philadelphia marathon yesterday. One was 21 and collapsed at the finish line. The other was 39 and collapsed about a quarter of a mile before the finish line.

The 39-year-old is a friend of a Facebook friend, so I know a bit about him.

He was an Ironman. In case you don’t know what an Ironman triathlon is: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run (marathon). He finished one in the spring in just over 10 hours. (That’s a really good time.)

In short, he was in good shape.

He wasn’t the guy you expected to die of a heart attack right before the finish line. (I know nothing of his history, of his other life habits, etc.)

And then this morning in my RSS feed, there was a blog post about keeping healthy, written by an older woman who has been taking good care of herself for decades and is in good shape, while watching people around her slowly crumble and fall apart. She acknowledges that some of that can be attributed to good genes but that it is mainly attributable to taking care of herself.

I agree. And the more science looks into it, the more science agrees.

(Yes yes yes, there are always exceptions. Everyone knows a 92-year-old guy who has smoked for the last 85 years, or a 20-year-old picture of perfect health who gets seriously ill and/or dies out of nowhere.)

I read only the first 15 or so comments on that blog post, but everyone said that really, it’s all genetic and she’s just lucky.

This makes me frustrated and sad.

Really, each person needs to be responsible for their own health and wellness. Do things happen that are out of our control? Sure. Do things happen that are a result of “in our control but not in a realistic way”? Yup. But most of the problems in most of our bodies today are a direct result of what/how much we eat and drink, and how much we move (or don’t move) our bodies.

That said, you all know I’m a pretty healthy person. I eat a fair amount of produce, I eat very little in the way of white flour products. Off and on, I look to restrict processed foods at all. I read labels and have a list of ingredients that I don’t put in my body. I avoid chemicals in many ways, both for me and for our baby.

Most people who know me just know that’s how I am, and it is what it is. Some ask me for information or advice sometimes. Some challenge me on various things sometimes. Most don’t say anything one way or the other.

It’s a different group of people who sometimes make me anxious. The ones who are sure that all of this stuff is a bunch of crap. Organics are a waste of money, plastics aren’t dangerous (to your body or the earth), etc., etc.

They bother me not because I’m insecure in my position on most things (still learning about the rest!) but because I feel pressure to be successful. Because if something happens, I am the “proof” that all of that stuff means nothing.

This was a large source of silent anxiety when I was pregnant, and it’s a minor source of anxiety with The Kid.

It’s fairly unfounded anxiety — these are not people whose opinion I’m going to sway. I will either be “proof” or be dismissed. But it exists anyway.

When I went to see the cardiologist a while back, he said that people who exercise generally have healthier hearts than people who don’t, but that I’m more likely to die while exercising than other times. Makes for a fun paradox of sorts.

So which side of the fence are you on? Do you think that eating well and exercising generally lead to longer, healthier lives, or do you think it’s all genetic and we will be what we will be?

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