Modern medicine is an incredible thing, with breakthroughs almost daily that range from simple treatments for common ailments to advanced organ transplants. Through those great medical innovations, the lifespan of the average person is now well into the 80s, with better living through chemistry, or so they want us to believe.
But while we treat one area of illness another continues to progress making it seem like we’re falling apart in little pieces. Where we once just dropped dead from something simple like a heart attack, now it seems we deteriorate bit by bit, with each component of our bodies being held together by a separate roll of medical duct tape.
Think of it this way. We take a pill for blood thinning so we don’t have a clot and get a stroke or heart attack. We take a pill for diabetes to keep our glucose levels down. But at the same time, our mind is intact, with virtually no deterioration. Or maybe it’s the opposite, Alzheimer’s shreds the mind while the body is still healthy. Eventually, the body follows in decay since the Alzheimer’s begins to affect how the nervous system functions.
Thanks to modern science, we’re living longer than ever, but I wouldn’t call it healthier or with much of a quality of life. There’s something to be said for just having the lights go out all at once. One of the most horrific things I have had to endure is watching my mother’s mind go as her body still functioned reasonably well. Or what might be worse, having an active, clear mind trapped in a degenerating body that refuses to follow the brain’s instructions any longer.
At what point are we living too long for our own good and quality of life? Can medical science develop a plan to help the entire body and mind maintain the same or reasonably similar level of health for as long as possible? I don’t think that’s really possible.
So, here we are, a pill for this and a potion for that, all in the name of better living through chemistry. Granted, much of what’s wrong with us is their our doing — smoking, drinking, sugar, fat, it goes on and on. Personal responsibility as one ages should at least be taken into account here. We are what we eat, and boy, it’s a mess.
Formaldehyde and chemicals in our water, carcinogenic material in our meat, pesticides in our vegetables, super-sized everything at the fast food counter, vaping (yeah, like that’s not smoking, whatever). It’s all killing us. But don’t worry, there’s a pill to counteract the effects of all that, so don’t worry about it.
Isn’t it idiotic, though, how much of what happens to us as we age is our own fault? We’re getting older, but we’re sicker when we live longer. When we won’t take care of ourselves even in the short term, someone else has to pay for that later on.
Last year, for example, obesity-related illness cost Americans nearly $200 billion and treating sickness related to smoking cost more than $300 billion. But wait, there’s more! Excessive use of alcohol costs Americans $249 billion.
Fighting obesity is sadly not as simple as trading a cheeseburger for a celery stick. It takes a full and complete lifestyle overhaul that may require generations to affect a family line. But you can totally prevent alcohol and tobacco illness by never lighting up or popping open that cold one.
Addiction may be a disease, but even that is 100 percent preventable because that first drink or smoke is a choice. A penny toward prevention is worth billions toward a cure.
Well, some of this we have control over, some we don’t. It’s so hard to imagine how people can just not care about their own well-being and how that affects those around them. As we age, we need more help from others. Wouldn’t it be great if that burden were just a little easier on our loved ones?
Yes, we’re living longer. But, despite what the big pharmaceutical company advertisements tell you, the quality of that long life is not measured in milligram doses.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer in Greene County. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communication, Ltd. More at www.deerinheadlines.com
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