The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 16, 2013

What should we believe about healthy way of life?

By Lynn Saternow

---- — “I had a problem so I started drinking. Now I have two problems.” ... old joke

Everywhere we look we are pummeled with news about healthy living. Unfortunately, we never know what to believe.

Just this morning I saw a story that drinking alcohol can contribute to cancer, even if you average only one drink a day.

What? For the last few years we were told that drinking a couple of glasses of wine or a couple of beers every day was good for you because it lowers your cholesterol level.

So now we should quit drinking. Why? So we can die of a heart attack instead of cancer, I guess.

Of course, it’s all about how you look at statistics. Supposedly, 35 percent of the drinkers who consume 1.5 drinks a day or less will die of cancer. And 3.5 percent of the 577,000 deaths in the United States from cancer can be contributed to alcohol.

Then again, how many of those people would have died of cancer anyway, even if they didn’t drink? They don’t know that?

Yikes! Reports like that are enough to scare people into drinking heavily.

But come on, how many times do we get differing reports on food items that go from bad for you to good for you, or visa versa.

For example:

• Eat fish because they are very healthy for you. Wait, don’t eat fish more than once a week because of mercury contamination in some fish.

• Don’t each chocolate because sugar is very unhealthy. Wait, we learned that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, actually can contribute to better physical and mental status.

• Watch out for coffee, the caffeine can be harmful. Now we learn that two or three strong cups of coffee a day can help curb Alzheimer’s.

Some scientists tell us that daily vitamins are good for you. Others believe that they actually don’t help at all.

Getting a little bit of sun is good for you. Getting too much sun contributes to cancer.

Let’s face it – everybody has a different body chemistry and a different family tree. If there is cancer in your family, you obviously should avoid eating and drinking things that can contribute to you getting it.

If your parents have high blood pressure or cholesterol problems, it’s likely you’ll have a problem with it and should exercise and eat properly.

Everyone knows that smoking is harmful to your health and on an average it will take years of your life. It can also affect the health of people around you.

But I read a few years ago about the oldest woman in the world dying in France. She was 121 years old. She allegedly had quit smoking at the age of 117. Wow. Good thing she quit or she might have only lived to be 120.

I figure all the wine they drink in France may have helped preserve her.

My mother-in-law still eats bacon or sausage – which we’re told is very bad for us – and has done so most of her life. She’s 95 years old.

My dad will be 90 this week and my mom is 86. I’m sure they didn’t follow all the healthy eating guidelines that are laid out for us today.

There has never been a doubt that exercise can help all of us lead longer lives – unless you are running on the side of the road and get run over, that is.

Let’s face it – there are no guarantees about anything in life. But it would probably help us all live longer if we knew which scientific advice to follow.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each week for the Opinion Page. He can be reached at