Imagine you have a car and you couldn’t replace any of the parts if they break. You need to keep it going as long as possible on the original parts and in as good a condition as possible. (Like in Cuba, where, due to the embargo and lack of ability to import new cars, you see a lot of cars from the 1950’s still on the streets.)
If this car was designed to take premium gasoline only, would you give it regular gas? Would you skip changing the oil or would you change it regularly?
I’ll bet you would take the car in for routine maintenance on a regular schedule. I’ll bet you would make sure this car had what it needed to run a long, long time. I’ll bet you would check the fluid and check the tires and check the hoses.
Most people would not hesitate to do this for their cars, to get their cars what they need, to take them in for checkups and maintenance. Yet they hesitate to do this for themselves. Many people skip having regular physicals, hoping that nothing is wrong and avoiding having the screening tests that can alert them to a problem when it’s early enough to do something about it.
What happens when your car’s radiator gets low on fluid? The engine overheats and steam comes from the radiator. This lets you know that something is wrong, that you need to stop, let the engine cool down and then add more radiator fluid. What happens when your car has an oil leak and all of the oil drains out of the car? A red indicator light comes on and let you know there is a problem with your oil levels. If you continue to drive the car without taking care of this problem, the engine can seize.
What happens when your body becomes dehydrated? Most of the time, there aren’t any symptoms. Certainly there’s no indicator light telling us we need to drink more water. And as we age, our thirst mechanisms aren’t as good at letting us know we need to drink more water as they were when we were young.
When we are dehydrated, because there’s less fluid in our blood vessels, our blood becomes thicker, more concentrated and more prone to clotting. This can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Dehydration also makes us feel tired. Often we perceive this lack of energy as a signal that we need to eat rather than a signal to drink more water. Our misinterpretation of this signal causes many of us to overeat, to take in calories we don’t need.
Many people don’t give their bodies the proper fuel to keep them running or they don’t drink enough fluids or don’t get enough exercise.
Too bad our bodies don’t have indicator lights like our cars. If we did, we would be alerted to the fact that something is wrong and we need to get a checkup. The problem is many of our illnesses develop slowly over time and without symptoms until our bodies have sustained irreparable damage. This is why physicians have screening tests.
You may not feel colon cancer until the tumor is large enough to obstruct your bowel and cause a great deal of pain and an emergency hospital admission. You may not feel diabetes until one day you wake up and your numb foot has turned black from gangrene. You may not feel hypertension until you collapse in your bedroom and wake up without the ability to move the left side of your body.
I saw this stuff every day on the job. I don’t know how many diabetics’ amputated gangrenous feet and legs I examined. I can’t tell you how many times I was the first person to know someone was going to die of a horrible disease because I lost count a long time ago. To me these things are not abstractions but are very real.
When I hear people trivializing this I get irritated. And when I see them feeding their children sugary sodas and processed food, I get angry. If an adult wants to consistently make poor health decisions, that’s one thing. They’re adults and they have the right. Condemning a child to a disastrous future is something else entirely.
The way things are going, an estimated 1 in 3 children born in 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes. This is a completely preventable disease. Physicians are having to screen 8 year-olds for high cholesterol. High cholesterol in children is also preventable. A healthy diet free of heavily processed foods and refined sugars and rich in fruits and vegetables will prevent many of the appalling diseases that plague so many.
Our bodies are tremendously resilient and have great repair capability, at least for a while. But if we persist with bad food and unhealthy beverages and too much stress and not enough exercise or sleep, eventually they will break down. And by the time there is an indicator, it may be too late.
1952 Dodge M37 military truck with the original flathead 6 engine. Still going strong after 60 years.