Last Friday, the nation celebrated its 238th birthday with the usual fanfare. However battered our democracy may seem at times, it’s still a work in progress and looks to the future. Generations upon generations of citizens have carried this political experiment forward, though how it survives can sometimes seem a mystery. We know more about dental plaque than we do about why our democracy has succeeded when attempts to establish it elsewhere have failed. Every 4th of July we can only wonder and rejoice in our country’s resiliency.
Like the nation, we citizens are resilient, too, and it shows in the number of years our life expectancy has increased. We can thank our men and women of science for that. Recently, they’ve come up with new information that is surprising and may prolong our lives even further. For example, seniors who carry a little extra weight and have a slightly elevated blood pressure are apt to live longer than those whose readings are in the normal range. Recent research has also reaffirmed that women are different from men – something the French have always known. “Viva le difference,” as they are apt to say. But now we know the difference is greater than we imagined. Prescription dosages for men can be harmful to women, for example, which means drug research is changing to accommodate this new understanding. In the future, women can look forward to medical treatments that will actually help rather than do them an injury.
Unfortunately for both men and women, our previous justification for eating chocolate and drinking wine is in dispute. Neither of them appears to do much for longevity. (“Health & Science,” The Week, May 30, 2014, pg. 17) That won’t stop me from imbibing, however. Enjoyment counts for something.
Surprisingly, when it comes to a long life, one of the greatest contributors isn’t diet or exercise or anything physical. It’s mental. Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning seems to contribute most to our well-being. (Ibid. pg 17) My reason is a stack of books. I agree with science fiction writer George R. R. Martin when he writes, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”