UE News, December 1993
THIS IS NOT THE COLUMN I planned to write a
few weeks ago. Originally I figured on writing about chemicals which irritate the skin.
But when I looked up at the calendar, and realized that this column was going into the
holiday issue of UE NEWS, I changed my mind.
I decided instead to write about something more positive. The subject is
health promotion, what we can and need to do as people, as families to maintain and
improve our health so that we can celebrate many happy holiday seasons, I hope, in
Some regular readers of the column may well ask, if promoting good
personal health habits is so important, why dont you write about them more often?
Part of the answer is that you regularly see, hear and read about these good health habits
on TV, on radio and in newspapers (but not in the ads, which tell us to do just the
opposite: pig out on junk food, etc.)
But theres another reason, I believe, why the media focus on our
health habits: since they are by and large controlled by major corporations, they also
want to turn our attention away from the toxic pollution which their owners
factories and products are producing and which threatens our lives.
Our union and this newspaper have no intention of letting these big
corporations off the hook. We dont intend to let industrial toxins poison us at work
or at home in our communities. So usually in this column we try to focus on the stories
the commercial media avoid the preventable industrial hazards, and toxic air and
water pollution in our communities.
But... we also recognize that there are things we can and should do as
people to maintain and improve our health. Lets talk a bit about them:
Despite the fact that our supermarkets sell so many different kinds of
foods, Americans as a nation eat very poorly. We eat lots of junk foods, promoted
aggressively (of course) by the large corporations which manufacture them. We eat too many
fatty foods, like hamburgers, french fries and pizza, which we wash down with fatty milk
shakes or high-calorie soft drinks. No wonder our life expectancy still hovers down near
that of many Third World countries. So next year, lets resolve to:
Eat less fats. Less beef and pork, more chicken and fish, less butter and
oils. When we cook, lets broil our chicken and fish, not fry them.
Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits. This will provide important vitamins
and minerals, and help reduce the risk of colon cancer. But lets steam, bake or boil
the vegetables. Dont fry them in butter or oil, or cover them with buttery sauces
otherwise you lose the benefits they should have brought.
Eat plenty of healthy carbohydrates, like potatoes and pastas. But bake or
boil the potatoes and dont cover them with sour cream or butter. Pastas with
tomato sauces are healthy foods, with cream sauces theyre slow killers.
Avoid foods with lots of chemical additives. Chemicals are mostly used to
extend the shelf-life of packaged foods, to color the foods and otherwise improve their
appearance. But really no one, including the food companies which use them, knows the
long- term effects of these chemicals on our health. If you eat lots of chemical-laced
foods, youre the guinea pig whos testing the chemicals. Who needs it?!
Scientists have now found that strenuous exercise is not necessary to
improve your health. Most of the health benefits of exercise come just from moderate
exercise, such as 30 minutes of walking a day even a few ten or fifteen minute
walks. Sure, more strenuous exercise like jogging, biking or running is better, but the
death rates from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, are cut in half by such
moderate exercise, scientists find.
Also, by the way, if you need to lose weight like many of us do
exercise can help you lose it. More important, studies show exercise is vital in
maintaining your weight after youve lowered it by dieting.
Stop or cut down on smoking. Cigarette smoking takes almost half a million
lives annually in the U.S., through heart disease, cancer and stroke. Of course, its
difficult to stop smoking cold turkey otherwise you would have done it years ago.
But try, try again. Join a smokenders group, or just get together every week with some
friends who are trying to break the habit.
And, look, if you cant stop smoking completely, just cut down on how
much you smoke. For example, suppose youre a two-pack-a-day smoker now. If you cut
down to one pack a day, youve cut your chances of developing lung cancer in half. If
you can make it down to half a pack a day, youve cut your chances down by a factor
of four. These arent bad odds the hard part, of course, is keeping down the
smoking to this level, and not creeping back up to two packs a day.
Have a happy holiday. Give everyone in your family a warm hug from me and
all the folks at the UE NEWS. Cheers!