Why Rush Your Own Funeral
( Originally Published 1956 )
ONCE, on a tour of a world-renowned cemetery in Genoa, I stopped before a large, imposing statue of a little old woman.
"Who was she?" I asked, with a touch of awe. "What did she do?"
"She sold flowers in the street," said my guide.
"But that statue in her honor—" I insisted, "she must have done something heroic."
"Heroic, maybe. Foolish, more likely." The guide shrugged. "She worked hard all her life selling flowers, saved every penny, had no fun, not even enough to eat, so she could have a big monument built in her honor when she wouldn't be here to see it."
The scene changes from the quiet of a Genoa graveyard to the noisy, frenzied pace of New York. But the pattern re-mains the same.
I was having dinner with a friend of mine.
Bob Swanson is a busy, successful executive whose company manufactures business machines. These machines are designed to operate with ease and efficiency. A husky former all-American, Bob had forgotten that the mechanism of his own body was the most delicate and efficient ever conceived. He wouldn't have thought of driving his car without gas and oil, yet he continually pushed his body to the breaking point without giving it the proper food to keep it operating.
He had just ordered his fifth cocktail.
"Why do you do it?" I asked him.
"Why do I do what? Drink?" he said.
"Why do you drive yourself to the point where you feel you need a few drinks to keep going?"
"I don't know," he confessed. "I get so damn tired. I wouldn't know how to slow down. My wife says I'll die in harness—that I can't seem to relax any more."
The next time I saw Bob he was lying white and still on a hospital bed after a heart attack.
"Funny thing"—he managed a feeble grin—"the office is running fine without me. Just goes to show you, no man is indispensable."
Bob was one of the lucky ones: he recovered. His heart attack was a warning which he was wise enough to heed. He put himself on a five-day-week schedule, learned to delegate authority, bought a cottage by a lake, and spent every week-end there with his family.
"I'm learning to relax," he told me later. "I was just a damn fool. For years I'd worked as though there'd never be a tomorrow. And you know something? There almost wasn't!"
A recent poll by a business magazine revealed that many of the top executives included in the study feared their own crackup more than they did a possible recession. Then, why not do something about these fears before it's too late? Heart attacks kill 800,000 yearly; they have left eight million Americans crippled. Will you be one of them? You needn't be.
Hundreds of big corporations—Bethlehem Steel, Campbell Soup, General Motors, General Electric—are giving their executives thorough physical checkups once a year. The companies make regular arrangements with such institutions as the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, and the Benjamin Franklin Clinic in Philadelphia. The Benjamin Franklin Clinic found that eight out of ten executives seen needed medical care to keep them from falling victim to degenerative disease and an early place in the obituary statistics.
How can you survive your success? By starting physical checkups in your thirties or forties to discover at an early stage those degenerative changes in the body which give no warning. Only thorough examinations can detect them.
Nearly a third of all men over sixty-five are chronically ill. Yet about three-quarters of the chronic diseases they have are partially or completely curable. It's ironical to think how many of the conditions might have been prevented if health inventories had been made frequently.
"If he would take an inventory to determine the condition of his heart, his weight, his smoking and drinking habits, and give some thought to the amount and kind of his recreation," says Dr. Fred B. Clarke, of Long Beach, California, "the aver-age businessman could add many productive years to his span of life."
Another medical man, Dr. William R. P. Emerson, found that nearly all of the 430 executives and other large policy-holders on the rolls of a life insurance company—men who had been standard risks when they had taken out the insurance—had developed physical defects by the time they were forty-five. And these were conditions that could have been spotted early and largely corrected if the men had had periodic examinations.
There are five faulty health habits that, unless corrected, cause certain degeneration of your body. Overeating is the worst of these.
Do you eat as much now as you did when you played college football fifteen, twenty, or thirty years ago? If so, you're asking for trouble . . and you'll get it. First, perhaps, in the form of a slight paunch. "A portly look," you tell your-self. A well-fed, filled-out, successful look that you consider rather becoming at first. Not bad for a fellow who used to be a string bean. When the portly look gets out of bounds and becomes a definite bay window, you try to laugh it off: "My chest must've slipped down!"
But you can't laugh off the increasing shortness of breath, the pangs of "indigestion," the difficulty in tying your shoe-laces, and the constant fatigue.
You can blame the high-fat, high-starch American diet for much of your body degeneration. During the past fifty years, Americans have increased their fat consumption by more than 50 per cent, and now eat more per capita than any other people in the world. Our sugar consumption has multiplied 500 per cent.
Americans eat almost a 50 per cent fat diet, compared to the 8 per cent fat content in the diet of the Japanese or the 20 per cent fat content of the Italian diet.
Since fats and carbohydrates contribute most to the degeneration of the body's functional organs, we begin to under-stand why the heart-disease mortality rate for men aged fifty-five to fifty-nine in the United States is ten times that of Japan and four times that of Italy.
The average American male knows when his eating habits are all wrong. He has been told that he should eat a high-protein, low-fat, low-sugar diet, combined with plenty of sleep and moderate exercise. But does he do anything about it?
He does not! He rationalizes: The rules don't apply specifically to him. He's different. "I have to eat a lot of sugar and starches," he argues. "I need them for energy."
He needs them the way he needs an aperture in his medulla oblongata.
Such a diet provides little residue to carry away the body wastes. Hence pocket money amounting to millions yearly is paid out for laxatives—laxatives that you chew like gum and those you gulp, drink, or eat—all of which would be wholly unnecessary if a few simple rules of health were followed.
The present high level of fat consumption hasn't always prevailed in this country. Care for a few statistics?
1. Cooking oils and fats are the biggest contributors to the increased fat consumption.
2. Meats, poultry, and fish cooked in fat furnish 22.1 per cent.
3. Dairy products—milk, cream, ice cream, and. cheese—contribute 15 per cent.
4. Butter contributes only 3 per cent of the total fat that we eat.
When OUT forefathers were pushing westward, their skillets produced quick meals of flapjacks and fried meat over open fires beside the wagon trains. That was their way of life—their only means of cooking.
But what about mom, today, in her modern, streamlined kitchen? Must she cling to outmoded ways of cooking? Or will she take time to broil, bake, or roast instead of fry, and safeguard the health of her entire family? This is a responsibility which rests largely on our wives and mothers.
How will they meet it?
Grandfather ate his flapjacks, and then went out to chop down trees for fuel and shelter. His grandson consumes the same high-energy meals, and sits all day at a desk in a well-heated office. Grandfather needed 4,000 calories a day to chop wood. Grandson needs only 1,900 to be a chairwarmer.
Within your life span there is a relatively consistent sequence of events which gradually adds up to a physiological "rusting-out."
Watch a boy of ten at play. How filled with energy and enthusiasm he is! How clear and bright his eyes appear. Yet the lenses of those young eyes have already begun to lose elasticity. By the time the boy is twenty, a slow, continuous decrease in the volume and acidity of the digestive juices begins.
Each individual, however, can help slow down his own rusting. Much of the deterioration seen in human aging is not necessary. Authorities studying new ways toward greater longevity think that man perhaps has the potential to live 150 years. They believe 10o years is a figure to which gerontologists may reasonably aspire. In the United States about 1 person in 33,000 actually does live that long.
Theoretically there is nothing to prevent others from doing so. But consider this appalling fact: One man out of every 6o now dies of a heart attack, many of the victims before they have gone even halfway to the 100-year mark.
What price is success?
Dr. Tom D. Spies, of the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism at Northwestern University and of the Nutrition Clinic at Hillman Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, has made outstanding progress in work on deficiency diseases. He says: "We contend that disease is chemical. Therefore, man must achieve biochemical independence." Dr. Spies believes that if human beings kept their bodies in chemical balance, they would grow old gracefully—with less mental and physical deterioration.
Many people start to break down chemically in middle life, later becoming nutritional cripples. These cases have been undernourished for years because their diet lacked the proper chemical nutrients of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
We must eat food that will build up our tissues and maintain good health. More than half the patients who go to Dr. Spies's clinic are helped simply by learning what to eat.
Are you past forty? Then don't neglect your doctor's ad-vice to have a yearly physical checkup.
Why men should schedule regular periodic checkups is shown by the recent University of Michigan Medical School study. The results of regular examinations of 500 apparently healthy businessmen revealed that 40 per cent of them were suffering from disorders they had not been aware of. All the maladies required medical treatment. With each re-examination significant new findings were made in 13 to 20 per cent of the men. These included: 4 cases of previously unknown cancer; 27 of high blood pressure; 16 of peptic ulcer; 12 of gallstones, 3 of diabetes; and 8 of various organic ailments.
And these were men who considered themselves in good health!
But you're only thirty, you say. Your nerves are steel and your stomach is cast-iron. Fine! Keep them that way with proper food, adequate rest, and regular physical examinations to guard against the diseases that sneak up on you.
Work hard if you like, but ease up a bit as you grow older. Play a little, relax a lot, and no doubt you will live to be a hundred! Unless . . .
The years pass. So swiftly that you hardly realize the changes that occur. Ten years . . . twenty . .. twenty-five...
Can this be you? It can't be! This tense and harried man with the consuming ambition that will never let him rest until it destroys him? This man who has all the money he needs, but won't take time to enjoy it? Who, at his present tempo, won't even live to enjoy it? Yes, it is you, and you, and you.
Your name is legion.
There are four common ailments that spell the differences between a healthy and a sickly old age. They are, in this order:
1. Disorders of the heart and circulatory system: hyper-tension, hardening of the arteries, coronary thrombosis, and apoplexy
4. Nervous and mental disorders
Heart disease tops the list of causes of death in the United States. In spite of all the modern medical facilities available for detection and amelioration, heart ailments caused 45 per cent of New York's 81,588 deaths in 1955.
Of all heart diseases, the No. 1 killer, coronary thrombosis, is the most preventable. It occurs when one of the heart's two arteries becomes clogged with rough materials on its inner wall. A blood clot forms, and the artery is blocked or closed. The result: blood cannot get through to feed the heart, just as water is unable to flow through old, rusty pipes when they finally become clogged.
Doctors and scientist are doing research on two theories advanced to explain hardening of the arteries and the coronary thrombosis that follows ultimately in its wake. According to the first theory, which shows definite promise, hardening of the arteries is due to a diet containing too much indigestible cholesterol and fats in combination with high starch foods. In other words, we can prevent the hardening of our arteries by what we eat—and how we eat it. The second theory is that the arteries suffer from sheer mechanical strain, or wear and tear. We try to accomplish too much in too little time, and wear ourselves out doing it. This is the stress theory.
Since 97 per cent of the victims of coronary thrombosis suffer from arterial difficulty prior to their attacks, I shall point out in subsequent chapters the effects of faulty diet and stress and how to eliminate these factors. As between diet and stress, the first is the easier to control. Diet depends on you; stress involves many external factors, and your reaction to them.
Dr. Theodore Van Dellen said: "Most individuals who reach the age of 6o physically fit began to take care of themselves in their younger years. They invested in their health, and are now reaping the benefits."
Will you live to enjoy your success? The success that you strained nerve and body to attain? Now there seems to be no letting up. New pressures, new responsibilities, spring up around you constantly, and there's no time to relax, no time to safeguard your health, no time to renew yourself.
No time to live!
But there is a way out. In the pages that follow, I shall help you find it.