and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
August #3

Living longer requires one to make some painful choices
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, August 18, 2005

I'm really enjoying this summer because it just might be my last. I recently read that women who have had their ovaries removed may die prematurely of heart disease.

Darn. I remember the conversation with the young doctor who did the emergency hysterectomy 13 years ago. He recommended taking the ovaries with the uterus as long as he was in there, and I figured: Why not? There would be one less type of cancer to worry about.

Of course when I balked at taking hormone replacement pills because this was "unnatural," he reminded me that the natural thing to do would be to die now that nature no longer had a use for me.

Once I stopped laughing, I thought this made sense, so I got a prescription for Premarin. Later I learned that the little pills were made from the urine of pregnant mares that were not treated very well. I felt bad but had to weigh it against the increased chance of suffering from osteoporosis if I didn't take them. So I continued with the therapy until I had an unrelated near-death experience and realized that the abused horses were one of the few things I might be punished for in a possible afterlife.

So I quit, and it seemed that virtue was rewarded, because shortly thereafter the hormone replacement therapy was found to create more problems than it solved. But now we learn that without it, my chances of reaching age 80 are reduced.

OK, I want someone to do the math for me: Calculate the increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis vs. the absolute certainty that I won't get ovarian cancer and the health benefits of a clear conscience about the mares.

I've already been told by various experts including, but not limited to, my mother and my primary care physician to lose weight, eat properly, and exercise more. I took a health class in grade school and read Gaylord Hauser when I was pregnant. Mother and I collected the Adele Davis series of books, and though traditional medicine initially scoffed at her ideas, we later collected news accounts of government studies that "discovered" her dietary truths.

My son, who eats better than I taught him to, gave me Jane Brody and very recently, Andrew Weil. Unless you get sidetracked by silly fads like the Atkins Diet, all the experts say basically the same thing; Consume whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, and less "bad" fat and sugar.

So I've known the proper way to eat for at least 40 years. The only advice I've followed consistently is to take a good multi-vitamin tablet and according to another new study, this too is a bad thing when used as an excuse to not actually eat the food that contains those vitamins and minerals.

I did eat my antioxidants: Broccoli, smothered in butter; and my blueberries, with sugar and whipped cream.

By the way, have you ever read labels to see just how much sugar you are ingesting from prepared foods? Whoah! But sometimes the choice, especially for drinks, is natural sugar or chemicals.

Gaylord Hauser recommended, along with proper eating, loose-fitting clothing and exposure to sunshine. As much as possible, I avoided pantyhose and tight collars and got as much sun as a working woman could. But I now search in vain for a warning about melanoma that also mentions the danger of lack of sunshine with its natural Vitamin D.

News articles still advise parents to cover their kids with chemicals and clothing during daylight hours; and in the evening, to keep them inside, away from disease-bearing mosquitos, which breed in the birdbaths that bird-lovers ask you to keep in your yard.

There we go with the "animals vs. our own health" thing again. And that's without going to the vegetarian thing. However, whenever possible I buy eggs from free-range chickens and meat from River Rock Farm in Westport, where the cattle roam happily til they are gently killed.

Yes, I pay more for this meat at the Marblehead Farmer's Market, but I feel better eating it, and I don't have to worry about mad cow disease. My partner, however, who's in charge of the grill, shops at the local Community Store. I get salmon a great source of omega-3 there and at the Lobster Pound Fish Market.

I still try to catch a few rays each sunny summer day, though I no longer bake on the lawn chair between noon and 2 p.m. Compromise another word I've never much liked, but the price I suppose I must pay for living longer.

My nutritionist friend suggested that I mix my favorite lemonade with the low-sugar version. My favorite cereal can be mixed with a lower-sugar brand and eaten with half low-fat, half no-fat yogurt. Broccoli is good with Olivio instead of butter. Blueberries can be lightly touched with Kool-whip. And irresistible sweets can be kept at a nearby friend's house so you have to leave home to get a treat.

Wait, is that a new headline? "Fat thighs may benefit health:" According to University of Colorado researchers, fat on legs, hips and buttock may help prevent heart disease ...

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.