Two bits of medical news caught my attention recently:
- Inactivity causes as many deaths as cigarettes (5.3 million deaths a year globally vs. 5 million from smoking).
- Poor sleep costs the non-sleeper “two years of life.”
Holy cow! These two facts give you a new perspective on the interaction of lifestyle choices and longevity.
The inactivity information came from The Lancet, a leading global medical journal. Exercise makes a dramatic impact in a whole laundry list of biggest causes of mortality.
Cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer are all halved (50 percent reduction) in people who exercise. Add this up with the frequency of these top killers and you get at increased worldwide mortality of 5.3 million people; more than the 5 million deaths attributed each year to cigarette smoking.
The sleep information came from the Nurses’ Health Study that was presented at the 2012 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. This was a powerful study involving 15,000 nurses who were followed for years.
The take-home message was women who slept an average of five hours or less, or nine hours or more, had increased incidence of cognitive dysfunction. They went on to quantify this and found that poor sleep is responsible for two additional years of brain aging. Meaning, I’m 55 and my brain works like a 57-year-old. I wonder if naps count?
This information causes a paradigm shift in my thinking.
Exercise is good. I get that, and even try to practice it. But smoking cigarettes, in my mind, is “the great Satan.” Smoking is a huge bad health habit that dwarfs any other good health habit you care to name.
Surprisingly enough, that isn’t true. Not exercising is as bad as smoking. Go ahead and read that again. Does that make you shake your head?
And the news about lack of sleep being a risk factor is just as surprising. It’s not like we’re talking about the really bad health stuff – cigarette smoking, red meat, or crystal meth addiction.
Good sleep or bad sleep, my solution is just have another cup of coffee, which we now know is good for you. But sleep is much more important than that. Poor sleep costs you two years’ worth of mental horsepower. What would you do to have two years back?
Every day we get totally overwhelmed with health information. It’s a fire hose going full blast pointed at our heads. It can be hard to know whether some study or other should be rated a 1 or a 10 on the importance scale.
These two little health information tidbits were almost under the radar, but put them together and they can cause change in our habits and our mortality rate.