Ask a group of people over a certain age if any of them have ever experienced a heart attack or cancer. If the number of “yes” answers totals zero then you don’t have a story, much less a moral. But if even one person says yes, this sends the message to younger people that getting older is something to be dreaded and avoided at all costs.
Data from the National Social, Life Health, and Aging Project is springing up all over the Web and is being used for a wide variety of reasons, but not once has it been used to educate younger people about how many people grow older without having ever had, much less died of, some horrible disease or condition.
The study reveals that 11 percent of people aged 65-74 have had a heart attack. That’s bad news, right? Wait a minute! Flip that around: 89 percent have not had a heart attack. Of those aged 57-64, 90 percent haven’t had a heart attack. Even by the age of 85, still 83 percent have never had a heart attack. Bear in mind, too, these people avoided being killed in an automobile accident every few minutes for the bulk of their adult lives.
Let’s keep going down the list and find out just how much awfulness there really is not.
What are the big aging bugaboos? Diabetes is a huge killer, but it doesn’t touch 81 percent of people aged 57-64. At age 85, it still hasn’t come near 62 percent of this age group. Cancer is the bane of our existence, yet 92 percent of those aged 57-64 have never had it, and it still hasn’t caught up with 85 percent of those who reach age 85. Let’s shed some light on the nightmarish fear of having a stroke by pointing out that 87 percent of those who reach age 85 do so without ever realizing that fear.
The malady that afflicts older people the most is also one of the most preventable and most easily managed if you do get it: hypertension (high blood pressure). Even so, 56 percent of people aged 57-64 escaped its grip. Of those aged 65-74, 41 percent have never had it, and 39 percent of the 75-85 group got that old without it.
These people didn’t survive the disease or suffer the condition and then die of something else; they never had the disease or condition. Ever. Not once. How did they do this? Obviously they are not exceptions to the rule. Are they magic? Are they boring? Maybe; or maybe they lived their dreams while also eating right, walking around more often than not, drinking in moderation, not smoking, and paying attention to their driving.
Yes, it’s true that if you mind your health you’re probably not going to have a stadium full of groupies or millions of dollars to throw around. It’s also true that if you party like a rock star you will likely die like a rock star: young, having forfeited the very attention you craved, leaving behind any children or other family to be mocked because you wasted your talents and abilities, and you might even be impersonated by bad lounge acts all across the nation for more years than you were alive.