How to Stay Healthy: Don't Get Old

More

In response to my post on silly hypertension advice, commenter Edgehopper has a great point:


This is something that gets obscured in today's medical reporting--everyone, as they get older, will get sick for some reason and die at some point. The biggest risk factor for heart disease and cancer isn't BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc....it's age. And to a large extent, the incidence of those diseases is random; doing everything right lowers your risk of disease, but not to zero, and usually not to that small a fraction of the risk for the general population. There is no magic set of behavior that will prevent disease; the closest is obvious behavior to prevent cancer like "don't smoke" and "don't zap yourself with radiation on a daily basis."

But there's a big difference in confirmation bias. When a person with good habits and numbers has a random heart attack at age 60, people will be shocked and sympathetic, thinking it's abnormal. When a fat person has a random heart attack at age 60, people will think it's entirely the fat person's fault. In reality, the fat person's risk of heart attack is only slightly higher; most people think that his risk is drastically higher, and his heart attack will confirm the bias while a "healthy" person's heart attack will be discounted as not fitting the pattern.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In