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Dr. Oz, RealAge and what’s really healthy?

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on July 30, 2010

Dr. Mehmet Oz is one of two doctors (and the more famous) named on the RealAge web site. It’s a test that claims to tell you whether you are younger or older than your biological age.

I thought it would be interesting to find out how old they think I am since, despite my recent challenges following surgery, I’m in rather good shape for my age.

I failed. I was told I was several years older than I am

Here are the weirdest reasons why:

1) I don’t know my blood pressure numbers.

The assumption was that I don’t get it taken.

Reality: my blood pressure is always so good I don’t bother to remember the numbers

2) I had breast cancer and I don’t have plans to see a doctor about it in the next 6 months

Reality: The longest out from the disease on the questionnaire was five years or more. I had breast cancer twenty-four years ago. About fifteen years ago my breast cancer doctor told me while she enjoyed seeing me it really wasn’t necessary for me to come back. I do have an annual mammogram and manual exam.

The last two reasons have nothing to do with my personal health, the strength of my body nor my vulnerability to disease. They were:

3)  I don’t have a dog

The justification of this life style judgment is that dogs get you out walking. Thank you, I walk without a dog.

According to an article in the Portland Tribune Sustainable Life section (June 10, 2010) “The real poop on dogs…”, “a medium-sized dog has a carbon footprint — or paw print — twice that of an SUV driven 5,000 miles a year, according to authors of the book ‘Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living.’

“‘Time to Eat the Dog’ lead author Robert Vale, a New Zealand architecture professor… says, [it] is in the food they eat, and the resources needed to grow that food. Dogs and cats consume a great deal of meat, and growing it takes up a lot of land that could be used for feeding people. An 80-pound dog requires about 1,700 calories a day, about the same as a 120-pound woman. All those calories require land and factories and packaging and delivery trucks. Vale calculates that the agricultural land required to feed all the dogs and cats in the United States could fill one and a half New Zealands.”

Agreed, this is a very human centric take on pet owning and I’m not telling dog lovers to get rid of their dogs–we all make choices for a variety or reasons, only some of which are sustainablity–but to tell someone who doesn’t want a dog to get one in order to be healthier is absurd and ignores the earth’s health.

4) I drive a small car.

The advise for improving my RealAge was for me to buy a bigger car since they are deemed safer in a crash. Another example of ignoring the health of the earth as being part of a healthy life. Which is more likely that I will be gravely injured in a car crash or adversely impacted by global warming?

The first time I heard of Dr. Oz was when the AARP magazine had a cover story on him last spring. In describing his office at Columbia University, they said his desk was scattered with bottles of Fiji water.

I’m assuming you already know that bottled water is a waste of resources and creates mountains of plastic bottles–made out of oil–that mostly end up in garbage dumps or floating in the ocean, but did you know New York City has great tap water? This is a fact that has been recognized now by even upscale restaurants who proudly serve it. In localities with fluoridated water, it’s actually better for your teeth to drink the local tap water, in addition to being healthier for the planet and your wallet.

Fiji Water in particular has been criticized for the environmental costs embedded in each bottle. The production plant runs on diesel fuel, 24 hours a day. The high-grade plastic used to make the bottles is transported from China to Fiji, and then (full of water) to the United States and other countries.  Activists have also claimed that “while thousands of Fijians do not have access to clean water,” the company ships its bottled water thousands of miles to the United States and Europe. (See Wikipedia for references for this paragraph as I lifted it from their Fiji water article)

Conclusion, sort of …

This quiz is overly focused on lifestyle, especially given how incomplete some of the questions are and the assumptions made, but more importantly it is based in a philosophy of individualism, the idea that one can control the factors leading to one’s own health.  No one will argue that smoking is healthy, but what if you live next to an industrial site belching toxic fumes? Sure we should eat six or more servings of vegetables as day but what if you live in a neighborhood without a store that sells fresh food?

Oz (and RealAge) needs to understand that if lifestyle is going to be a measure of health it needs to include a wider view–a view that sees us as impacting each other with our choices and acknowledges that some of the most important influences are out of our hands unless we act collectively.



Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on July 13, 2010

Reading John Updike’s poem “Endpoint”, begun the day he turned 70 and added to on his birthday for several years and then more often as his health declined.

One of the passages that resonates is:
… he thinks that Mother, Father, mailman, and
the wheezy doctor with his wide black bag
exist for him, as so they do, or did.

A fine writer can make us realize our ‘unique’ thoughts aren’t.

I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade when the teacher asked us if New York City existed and we all, of course, said Yes. Have you been there? No. How do you know it’s real then? Maybe you’ve been lied to.

I did not take from her the lesson intended. I turned it into a version of the Truman Show–maybe the world existed for me. Maybe nothing existed until my life required it. When I went to New York it would come into being. Everything, even my rejections, were to make my life the way it ought to be.

I’m beyond that now, of course, but not beyond the necessity of my being. I think about all the amazing people who have lived and they all departed. Eleanor Roosevelt died. Einstein died. Updike. There is no one so special, so virtuous, so important that they do not die. I give myself lectures but still I do not want to believe it for myself.

There was the time I lay in the hospital waiting for a surgery that clearly the doctors worried I was too weak to survive. I looked out the window thinking ‘that may be the last tree I ever see.’  It wasn’t that I wanted to die but I was so weak, so tortured by the treatment, life I was not delicious and I had lost most of my will.

Since recovering over 30 years ago, I’ve come to believe on, some gut level, that I can survive anything. Now my inner lecture is: you not only could die soon, you must die and twenty years would be amazing. Ten would be good. Get over it. You are special to you. Everyone you’ve lost was special too. Special doesn’t save anyone! Accept it. A little voice is saying embrace it and a bigger one says Bullshit.

The Body at 70

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on July 12, 2010

It’s not so much that I turned 70 this spring, it’s that the main feature of my life for the last four months has been my body and it’s ailments.

First it was the hysterectomy; I made a great recovery from the surgery and got my energy back in half the time everyone told me it would take but even before that happened I was hit by Trigeminal neuralgia.

TN is mostly an old person’s disease so right away I took it as a terrible birthday present. In less than two months it was under control with a drug, but right about then my right knee became a problem. Now my day is scheduled around pill time.

Every visit to the mail box is that moment before opening a beautifully-wrapped present in anticipation of finding my handicap parking permit, and then the bitter letdown of nothing. I watch walkers, amazed how easily they do it, how casually–bend, swing, straighten, weight shifting automatically, balanced in the moments when only one leg is on the ground–as if it were not a complex mechanical operation. I scooter around the grocery store.

My new health providers include a neurologist, neurological surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, rehabilitation therapist and physical therapist.

Went to the coast for the 4th of July weekend and spent the entire time in the house–well a couple of excursions out on the deck.

My father’s late-life mantra was  ‘We should be born old and grow young.’ Finally, I understand.