Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dead at 83 or 200?

Yes, I did that dreaded thing, the annual checkup of my biological engine. My mechanic, a highly qualified medical doctor spouted scary statistics and bullied me in taking even more pills. The Pharma industry must love this guy. My drug bill went up from $20 per month to nearly double that. Aah, that’s why we have insurance. My dentist noticed two ‘flaking’ crowns to be replaced – oops another $1600. Yes, I love my medical insurance… really? Maybe more about that in future posts. Back to the pill-monger.
So he says that I have an 18% chance not to make the next decade but if I take the pills he recommends then I have only a 10% chance to be dead. Wow, that doesn’t sound good. I went home quite depressed.  Then common sense hit me. First off all, there are millions of baby boomers at the tender age of 63 (that’s mine) and all those peers get those increased medical doses from their respective life-mechanics.  Wow! Invest in pharma! That was my first thought.  Next I thought about car leases! Yes, you are supposed to follow the maintenance recommendations of your car mechanics including car engine flushes every three months and God may know what else. No wonder garages recommend that rather than 6-month oil changes. After all, the profit margins on selling new cars are near all-time lows.  Garages make their mula from car maintenance and the sale of ‘pre-owned vehicles’. Back to my life expectancy.
So, if I and my other 63-year-old mates are expected to be dead (on average) by 83 that means that at least 50% of us are dead in 20 years.  So based on that I must be dead by 75 with a probability of close to 20 to 25%. I went on-line and there are life expectancy calculators.  I lead a pretty healthy life watching my sugars, biking to work in summer; swimming or skiing twice a week in winter. Modest use of alcohol and eating a lot of organic stuff. So what does the stupid on-line calculator tell me? Yep, I have a 19% chance of being dead in a decade no matter that my fortune teller told me that I won’t expire before reaching the ripe age 93!  The calculator came courtesy of the Mao clinic although I have no idea what China’s communist leadership has to do with health. I would nearly think that their attention leads to a much lower life expectancy!
Next, I wondered what are these numbers based on?  Are they based on the male life expectancy in Europe or the entire world?  Or are they based on overweight Texans? J  Are they based on the average Canadian jog addict? Next thing is that we are looking at a glass that may either be half full or half empty depending on one’s perception of life. One nearly suspects that medical doctors have also a degree in the dismal sciences! So, I probably have an 80 to 90% chance of making it to the next decade and at least a 60% chance of making it past 90. My Dad is past 90 thus I probably also have some longevity genes in me. That improves my odds!  So by how much are those stupid pills really increasing my life expectancy if any? And for that I’ll be paying $40 per month for the rest of my life while I could have an Economist subscription for what, $10(?) per month until perpetuity?  This doesn’t even take into account that we’re technically immortal since progress in medical science apparently increases our life expectancy by yet another year, every year!  Hmmm…
I think our physicians are kind of like our health coach and many are sincere in their mission to keep us alive longer. But using these shaky life expectancy statistics to scare us into yet another addicting drug is not the way to go. Here these people lose a lot of credibility. Neither adding to the credibility is their believe in average body conditions.  I may be a bit over my ideal weight (I think 10 to 15 pounds) due to my sedentary office career but not compared to age peers (yes, I am a bit conceded). However, in appearance I am not overweight. Yet based on my length and weight I was classified to be on the edge of obese. Yes, a person of light build who was always skinny, say a marathon runner of my length, may be considered obese at my weight.  Me, though, a competitive swimmer still active and broad shouldered and of quite different build than the runner is not obese.  That generalization of ‘being obese’ would make nearly every one of my age obese – no wonder all the dire warnings of the WHO.  We all have to meet the average standards of weight, sugar level; cholesterol etc. even when controversial amongst physicians themselves. Please, medical profession, in this age of computers and fine dress shirts customized based on cell phone measurements (did you watch Shark Tank lately?) could you be a bit more specific rather than scaring the crap out of us grey masses?

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