Thursday, September 17, 2015

How Not to Die: Tips for Generation X

After my swim across the bay I ride my bike to my neighbors' who invited me for pizza and we talk about this year's El Niño and our hopes that it will end the worst drought in 500 or 1200 years (depending upon what you're reading). The warmer Pacific has dumped thousands of little orange tuna crabs onto beaches in San Diego and Orange County, and sea hares--purple slugs that look like small human hearts--onto beaches in San Francisco. We talk about the tuna crab I saw swimming backwards across the top of the water, looking up at me with bulging and friendly black eyes as I crouched down on the dock and laid on my belly to stick my arm in the water up to my elbow, testing if it was warm enough to swim. We talk about the seal that popped up eight feet in front of me last summer, its big, brown eyes looking into mine. They show me drone footage of great white sharks swimming in Huntington Beach just eight miles south of where I swim every afternoon. But as a swimmer in Los Angeles County my odds of dying this way are low, one shark attack for every 738 million beach visits. There is no real need to worry about dying this way. So I've compiled a list of things you too can stop worrying about.

Stop Worrying About ...

Thigh Gap, Thinspiration, and Anything Anorexia-Related. Do women speak out against anorexia because they're envious of skinny women? I think so. On Facebook women rail against the evils of thinspiration, thigh gap worship, and the belly button challenge. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) says that 5 - 20% of individuals struggling with anorexia will die and that it has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition. I don't believe NEDA because on another page it says that death rates vary considerably between studies, which may be due to length of follow-up, inability to find people years later, or other reasons. So they're not really sure. You know who is sure about anorexia death rates? The CDC. You can look at CDC tables and see that anorexia isn't there because nobody is dying from it, at least not in numbers significant enough to be on the radar of the CDC

Americans are not dying from anorexia, just the opposite. The top 5 causes of death in the U.S. (with the exception of accidents) are directly caused by unhealthy diet, obesity, lack of exercise, and smoking (though cancer is also attributed to gene mutations, hormones, radiation, and viruses). So worry about eating healthy and getting enough exercise and show anorexics some respect. The 60 - 70% of Americans who are overweight could use some pro 
ana tips.

Someone Shooting You. 
My husband asked me where I stood on gun control.

"I don't care." I said.

"You don't care?" he said. And then he was quiet.

"It's a divisive issue and a waste of time because people aren't dying from guns. Adults die from being fat and inactive and children die from accidents. I am more concerned about labeling GMO food and keeping our water supply clean ... or actually having water in California. So guns, who cares?" 

Statistically the person most likely to kill you, is you. People ages 35 - 50 (Generation X) are more likely to die from suicide than homicide. Men do it with guns and women do it with poison. The fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. is accidents or unintentional injuries--poisoning, traffic, and falls. Poisoning is synonymous with accidental overdoses, usually from opiates. In 2013 drug poisoning death rates among Generation X were 21.9 in people ages 25 - 44 and 27.5 ages 45 - 54. The medicine cabinet is a dangerous place, especially for women, so worry about locking your medicine cabinet, not your neighbors' unlocked guns.

Poison is the mostly likely cause of death for ages 25 - 44.

Random Acts of Violence. While travelling to Asia in June, specifically Singapore and Tokyo, I was amazed at the train manners. On the metro in Los Angeles people eat takeout despite the threat of fines, spit on the floor, yell profanities into their cell phones, and spread their arms and legs to take up multiple seats. In Tokyo and Singapore people are respectful of themselves, the facilities, and each other. People limit themselves to a single seat, quietly text or read, and offer priority seats to the elderly and women with small children. (Though public transportation is used by a different socio-economic class in Los Angeles than in Asia.) When I returned home, I googled "violence in the US" to determine why Americans are so violent. I learned that Americans aren't violent--loud, rude, and obese maybe, but not violent. According to World Health Rankings the U.S. is #92 in violence as measured in death rates per 100,000 people out of 192 countries. Wikipedia ranks the U.S. at 109 out of 218 countries, so it's the middle of the pack. You can stop worrying about random violence because you can't do anything about it.

But worrying isn't all bad, it may actually be a sign of intelligence. So I've also compiled a list of things you can worry about.

Do Worry About ...

Cigarettes. Smoke causes COPD, so why not trade in your cigarettes for pot (in states where pot is legal)? Realize I'm not speaking from experience on this topic as my profession requires drug tests and both my granddads died of lung cancer; illicit drugs and tobacco are not my thing. Plus I am moving to Singapore and the penalty for drugs is death. So there's that. At least find a safer alternative to cigarettes, like swimming at the beach in Southern California during El Niño when adolescent great white sharks are just off the coast.

Your parents crossing the street. More than 9,000 older pedestrian fall-related injuries each year involve a curb, i.e., an older adult tripping on a curb. Pedestrians ages 65 and older accounted for 20% of all pedestrian deaths in 2012. Your parents are especially in danger if they live in Florida--Orlando was the most dangerous area to walk in 2014, followed by the Tampa-St.Petersburg, Jacksonville, and Miami. 

Your parents or children falling in Vermont. Vermont is the state with the most deaths from falling, 17.2 deaths. Falling is the 8th leading cause of death for all ages in Vermont. For the life of me I cannot figure this one out. Do people fall because of snow? Because they're drunk? If it's booze or snow why aren't people falling as much in North Dakota.

Your teenagers driving, especially in Montana. Montana has the highest teen death rate in the U.S., killing 82 teens, mostly from motor vehicle deaths and suicide. Montana also has the highest motor vehicle death rate for all ages. Rural roads are more deadly than city and suburban roads because rural drivers are more likely to be older, more likely to be drinking, and less likely to wear seat belts. Something to remember if you're moving to the country to keep your teen safe. 

Hopefully you are not crossing the street, smoking, burning a candle or eating anything--especially something fattening--on which you can choke while reading this post.

Note: Death rates are per 100,000 per year unless stated otherwise.

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