It seems to be one of the commonest failings of mankind to live in direct contradiction to the simplest rules of living that will prolong life and make it a healthy one. Mainly, it is the fault of blundering ahead without thinking of the consequences. “A fool denies his errors, but a wise man learns from them.” This would be a good motto for all of us. To follow it is not so difficult. We must simply stop and re-examine our way of living.
We must ask ourselves, are we our own worst enemies?
In too many cases, the answer is yes. We must be constantly watchful if we are not to lose the precious gift of health and well-being. We must judge which of our habits is injurious. At this very moment, you may be committing an error that will have an influence upon you for the rest of your life.
To know whether or not you are contributing to future sickness and stealing years from the promised span of your life, compare your way of living with these seven deadly sins of modern living.
THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS
- Are you a tobacco addict? Do you poison your whole system – your lungs and mouth and throat, your heart and blood stream – with deadly nicotine?
- Do you drink? Whether the amount is moderate or excessive, alcohol affects your liver and kidneys and heart. Do you take a drink as a pick-me-up without knowing that alcohol’s real effect is to depress not only your brain and blood stream but every organ of your body?
- Do you overeat? Are some of your organs being required to function at more than capacity because you will not curb your appetite? Do you deliberately put an extra strain on your muscles and bones by asking them to carry a greater weight than they were intended to bear?
- Are you addicted to drugs of one sort or another – aspirin, alkalizers, bromides and sleeping-pills? Do you reach for a “pain-killer” as soon as you feel the smallest ache or pain? If you do, you are not only poisoning your system but upsetting the balance that nature so carefully provided.
- Do you drink coffee, tea or the cola beverages without thinking that they are crippling your nerves and undermining your health? They are drugs just as truly as aspirins or sleeping-tablets even though they come in the form of a hot drink or cold, aerated beverage.
- Are you a faddist? Do you try all the latest pills or take unreasonable exercise or go on diets whose results are damaging to the system and may even bring death?
- Are you a foam-rubber prisoner? Are you a slave to the deep-cushioned armchair and lazy comforts so that you cannot develop a habit of activity to produce healthful circulation of your blood stream?
If your answer to even one of these questions is yes, then you are your own worst enemy.
Nothing, not even nature, can replace organs or tissues which have been destroyed by poison or neglect. If you have deliberately done the things which tear down the normal functioning and balance of your system, you cannot hope to undo the damage. By following the dictates of nature, however, you can build your body to a state of health provided that you have not gone too far along the path to destruction.
I called the seven habits sins because they work against health and life. Some of them are little more than legalized murder. Nicotine is a sure killer if enough is taken into the system. Even the daily newspapers run long articles about the dangers of sleeping-tablets. People everywhere recognize that these things are dangerous. Sadly, though, the warnings go unheeded. They know but they do not act.
Horrible tales are told of some of the effects of these sins of civilization. A mystery writer kills off one of his fictional characters by injecting the nicotine obtained from three cigarettes which had been soaked in water. A set of false teeth which had been left standing in a glass of cola were turned to mush. But do people listen to them and take warning?
Scientists are constantly turning up evidence that should scare people into living a rational life. The relationship of cancer to smoking has been proved. Life insurance companies spend millions to warn Americans that overweight persons are the most likely victims of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart ailments and hardening of the arteries. The 1953 annual meeting of the American Medical Association warned that two of the worst killers, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, were aggravated by excessive prolonged nervous tension, excessive overweight and excessive tobacco.
Blundering and short-sightedness are one thing. Sheer stupidity is another, and it can be called nothing else when people reject and ignore facts that have been established beyond any shadow of doubt. In the tobacco habit, the alcohol habit, the reach-for-a-pill-or-bromide reaction, we have the seeds of the degenerative diseases. These diseases are in no way related to bacteria or accident. Heart ailments, arthritis, diseases of the veins and circulatory system are the result of deteriorating tissues. Many people refer to them as a simple aging of the organism. All people must undergo this aging process. To all people death comes after a slow and steady loss of vitality and strength.
There is no way yet known to halt this process, but there is, equally, no reason why we should deliberately hasten it. By excesses of one kind or another, by the use of these toxic agents, we are contributing to and hastening the deterioration of our vital organs.
We know today that cancer of the mouth, lip and chest are most apt to attack people who have been excessive, or even moderate, smokers. Smoking is blamed by the scientists for many other disorders of the nose and the circulatory system. New phrases have become current in our language which attests to the spread of such ailments – smoker’s throat, smoker’s hack or cough.
Sometimes the connection of tobacco with disease and decay is not direct, but nevertheless it is just as deadly. Some investigations by Dr. W. J. McCormick of Toronto, who has done considerable research work in the field of vitamin therapy, show the relationship between smoking and Vitamin C.
He has found that the smoking of one cigarette can neutralize 25 milligrams of Vitamin C. Thus, if you have one orange for breakfast and follow it by only one cigarette, you will have lost more than half of the vitamin content. One slice of pineapple, which is also a good source of this vitamin, is almost totally nullified by the smoking of a single cigarette.
We know that Vitamin C is primarily necessary for its qualities of resisting infection. It is only a logical step to presume that a smoker, whose intake of Vitamin C is destroyed by the tobacco habit, will be more open to infection than non- smokers. This theory is upheld by a report from the Mayo Clinic, one of America’s foremost research centres. They have found that four times as many smokers contract pneumonia after an operation as non-smokers. Obviously, the ability to resist infection is much lowered if a person has not the intelligence and the mere will to survive to give up smoking.
[Read: We Are What We Eat!]
We suggest that other experiments be made along these lines. There are some ailments which are almost certainly caused or made more severe by the tobacco habit. Emphysema is one of these. In simple words, this is merely degeneration of the lung tissue. It is a common condition as we grow older and shows itself as a shortness of breath. Through age and prolonged use, the lungs gradually lose their elasticity. It becomes more and more difficult for them to expand and contract. This happens in some degree to all people of advanced age, but for some it is a serious condition while for others it is hardly noticeable. Would it not be logical to assume that those with the severest condition are the smokers?
Recent studies have also shown that persons suffering from chronic nasal and bronchial disorders are the hardest hit by shortness of breath in their old age. This is a natural consequence of these respiratory disorders. The lungs have become abnormally distended because they have had to work beyond their normal capacity in order to overcome the defect of the other parts of the body. When we put the known facts together, they follow a familiar pattern. We know that smoking is the cause of many nasal and branchial disorders and, therefore, may well be the cause of shortness of breath later in life.
Each age in history is known for its particular disease or ailment. In the Middle Ages, it was the plague. It was brought on by the poor diet, the long hours of overwork and poor sanitation. When we think of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we associated those times with the gout. People ate little in the way of fresh fruits and vegetables. Their diet was heavy with fats. Tuberculosis was the scourge of the nineteenth century. Many factors contributed to making this the number one killer. Homes and factories were sunless and poorly ventilated. Diets were deficient in vitamins. Today the killing diseases are degenerative conditions of the heart, blood system and the brain. This breaking-down and wearing-out of the human body is, in all too many cases, brought on by the excesses and abuses of modern civilization. Tobacco, coffee, aspirin and alcohol are not merely the symptoms of our nerve-shattered age but often the direct cause of it. They destroy tissues and organs and in destroying the parts, they are destroying the whole.
[Read: Exercise: Body Basics]
These first four of the seven deadly sins are well known to all of us whether or not we are far-sighted enough to eliminate them from our lives. The three remaining, however, are not as clearly seen in their true role of killers. They are overeating, faddism and the armchair habit.
Fat contributes to every form of human decay. The number one killer of our day — arteriosclerosis (or a break-down of the arteries) — is caused by fat. Fat is deposited in clumps along the inner surface of the arteries and the heart. Gradually the open channel of the arteries becomes narrowed and the blood cannot flow through them easily. This leads to scars on the heart and eventually to death.
It is estimated that the useless bit people are carrying around on their bodies could supply enough energy to do about one and a half billion man hours of work. Actually, this useless fat cuts down a person’s ability to lead a normal, productive life. We know, for instance, that overweight people tend to be less fertile than those of normal weight. The excess weight throws out of balance all the glands of the body, including the reproductive, or sexual, glands. The hormones which the glands produce and which have much to do with our general health are produced in smaller quantities. Fat overloads the bony frame of the body and puts a strain on the joints which leads to arthritis and rheumatism. In fact, there is not one part of the body that does not suffer, directly or indirectly, from overweight.
[Read: Food: What To Eat? How To Eat?]
There is only one thing to do about it. Stop overeating. We know that thousands of people go around excusing their excess weight by the flimsy excuse that their glands are out of order, that they have a sluggish thyroid. In nine cases out of ten, it is simply not true. We are overweight because we overeat. Sometimes, we overeat because we have fallen into bad habits or are thoughtless. More often, overeating is not purely physical. Just as we have seen that all diseases are conditions of both the body and the mind, so we see that often overindulgence in food is a psychological state.
We used to think that all fat people were happy. As a matter of fact, we know now that the opposite is true. Some scientists have gone so far as to predict that they may be able to cure a good deal of mental illness when they understand more about a person’s eating habits. Desire for certain foods dovetails with” a person’s emotional predicament. Many people, for instance, eat more cheese and ice cream or drink more milk when they are going through a particularly bad period. Unconsciously, they are asking for security.
Everyone has noticed that some women put on a lot of extra weight after they’ve had a baby, sometimes right after their marriage or when they’ve lost a husband. It used to be argued that this was only nature, but every one of those women was faced with a new situation in life, and the easiest way to find relief from the tensions it caused was to eat. It’s a lesson most of us learned in childhood. Hunger was probably the first unpleasant sensation we knew as babies, and we learned fast that only food could relieve this tension. That was right and good, but too many of us carried into our adult lives the habit of relieving tensions, any tensions, with food.
[Read: The Right Diet For You]
Food means comfort and security. That is the main reason why people with emotional problems are apt to fasten so much of their attention on food. There is the woman who is so unsure of herself and of her husband’s love, that she must have constant proof of his devotion. What better way to get proof than to become so fat and unattractive that only true love will accept her ungainliness? There is the man who hates his work and complains of headaches and backaches, of feeling too weak to carry on. So he eats to gain strength, but the fat only makes all his symptoms much worse, and then who can blame him when he becomes really incapable of working?
Not all overweight people go to such extremes nor are their motives so off the track and uncontrolled. Just the tensions of frustration, boredom, and anxiety are enough to start many people on an eating spree, and scientists sympathize with a person who claims he simply can’t stop. Understanding what brought on the craving for food helps some, but not much. What the person really needs is to remove the emotional problem or, if that is impossible, to substitute some other emotional satisfaction rather than food.
The sixth of the deadly sins is faddism. Sometimes a fad seems to start harmlessly. The basic idea behind the “treatment” is a good one, but it is distorted and misused. The faddist is a person who lives by excesses – usually he runs from fad to fad. Perhaps one week he will lie in the sun for three or four hours. The skin is burned painfully. Sometimes to the extent of a second-degree bum. He runs a fever, has headaches. Too frequent burning of this sort is known to bring on some forms of skin cancer. What is more important, his whole system is thrown off balance. When he recovers, he swears off sun-bathing and takes up yoga. He stands on his head three hours a day, fasts for weeks at a time and then wonders why his whole body is run down and his health is in much worse condition than before.
Actually this living by excess is a part of all the other ills of modern civilization. Certainly tobacco, in even the smallest amounts, is not good for you, but it is the heavy smoker who suffers the most in the end. Small amounts of alcohol will cause only slight reactions in the system which it may take years to show up, but the heavy drinker will almost immediately experience the ill effects of bodily deterioration. The same is true of all the other bad habits. We are not saying that tobacco or alcohol, even in small amounts, is good. We do say, however, that excess is in the very nature of things harmful and dangerous.
Faddism has other dangers. When the faddist gets sick from exposure to the sun, people jump to the conclusion that sun-bathing is dangerous and that all natural livers are crackpots. By carrying a good idea to excess, he is bringing discredit upon one of the most important factors of healthful living. To live in harmony with nature is not simply a high-sounding phrase. It means just that – harmony. There must be no excess, but a blending of all that is good. It is just as much of a mistake to eat nothing but wheat germ or drink nothing but orange juice as to dose your body with drugs and poisons. People like that are harming the progress of rational living.
The seventh deadly sin is lack of activity. Today, we are going through 21st century and we all are facing Lifestyle Diseases. And the reason is sedentary lifestyle. How many people do you know who never stir from their chairs except to eat and sleep and work? They come home in the evening, complaining of fatigue, ready to read their papers, listen to the radio, or watch TV. At the week-ends instead of getting out in the air and sun, they lounge about the house getting more and more irritable and discontented. If this were all, it would be bad enough, but this laziness of body helps to break down the natural functioning of the system.
Exercise is necessary in order to preserve a good digestion, to make elimination natural and effective, to stir up the circulation of the blood. No system can function normally if there is a lack of appetite and, hence, of enough food of the right kinds. Constipation can bring on many other ills. We know that many cases of arthritis and rheumatism are due, in part at least, to a lack of exercise. The joints become stiff, in some forms of the disease, grow together into solid bone if they are not used constantly. Heart diseases of many kinds have their origin in the poor circulation of blood.
We must list some simple warnings.
- Diet is not everything.
- Water cures are not enough alone.
- Air-baths, if taken without equal care of diet, will not cure anything.
- Too much sunlight can kill.
- Massage is not a panacea.
There is only one cure-all. That is nature. All the products, agents and forces of nature, properly proportioned and regularly administered are the only way to health of both the body and the mind.