Years ago I came across an article that claimed having creases in your earlobes was an indicator of a higher risk of heart disease.
"Well crap," I thought at the time. Because I kinda-sorta have a faint crease in my right earlobe. I worried about it for a couple of days, then forgot all about it.
Until last week, that is. I was surfing the web and somehow ended up over at The Straight Dope at an article about earlobe creases.
And, yep, while the research is not all in agreement there are yet more studies saying earlobe creases are a bad sign. (For example, in one of the studies the creases had a "positive predictive value" for coronary artery disease of 68 percent, and for people under 40 it was even higher, at 80 percent).
Also, according to the Straight Dope article, there are other weird heart disease "danger" signs out there too, like the color of your earwax, the smell of your breath, the length of your ring finger, and some other gross things I won't even mention.
Oh, and then some study recently came out and said that having thin thighs was a bad thing when it comes to predicting heart disease. Thin thighs, bad? Really? And at first I thought maybe they meant super-skinny folks, but then I went back to the article and measured: damn. Apparently I have thin thighs. Because if you measure "just below the point where your seat meets your legs" and the number is less than 23 1/2 inches? You may be at increased risk of premature death.
So apparently my thighs and earlobes are saying "heart attack," even if my earwax is trying to reassure me, "nah, you're good."
When you read about ominous warning signs for diseases you would rather not end up with, and discover you're at higher risk, do you worry about it?
I used to fret about these sort of articles more, but here's the thing I realized: when it comes to the risk of premature death, I'm already completely screwed.
You know how every article that mentions health risks always gets around to family history? Well, my father died of a heart attack in his early fifties, and both my mother's parents also died in their early fifties (of hemorrhagic stroke and cancer, respectively). My mother, thank goodness, is doing fine, but as I'm getting close to 50 myself, I can't help being aware that my genes are not necessarily my friends.
Is this a bad thing? Well, not necessarily! Because knowing I'm potentially high risk helps me take way better care of my health than I would if I were cheerfully oblivious. While I'm way too lazy to go the gym just to fit in a particular size jeans, I am not too lazy to go to the gym in order to be around to wear jeans at all.
But it still creeps me out a bit when I come across yet another study alerting me to brand new signs that I'm doomed. Are there are any other anxious types out there? If so, here's a reminder of some tricks you can use for blowing off bad news:
1. Wait until another study comes out that completely contradicts the obnoxious one. This may take years or it may take minutes, but eventually, there will be one that says what you want it to.
2. Distinguish yourself from the population under study. Not a lab rat? Excellent, nothing to worry about then! Are you human, but not, say, Swedish, or a nun, or a post-menopausal woman or whatever? No worries then, because they're not talking about you!
3. Eat a big serving of broccoli. It will make you immortal.
4. Develop a selective memory. Note: this gets easier and easier as you get older. Was there some research that said something about heart disease risk? Wait, do we need milk at the store or did we get some yesterday? Pizza sounds good for dinner, doesn't it? Presto! Scary study? What scary study?
5. Reframe your anxiety as a positive: Don't think about yourself as a high-risk worrywart; you are actually a highly motivated health freak! This is a good thing. Unlike most folks these days, you are staying active and eating your vegetables, not sitting on the couch waiting around for a surprise heart attack or stroke to finally motivate you to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
6. Diagnoses are no longer death sentences: Even if you do everything right, you may still end up with heart problems or cancer or diabetes or something frightening. But with modern medicine and a fighting spirit, so many of these conditions are beatable. Even if you should run into trouble, a lifetime of healthy living will give you much more strength than the average schlub to fight off scary diseases.
(And speaking of coping with a scary diagnosis: one of our dear blogfriends, Missicat, could use some kind words and support during a stressful time; you may want to stop by her blog, Missicat's World, if you haven't been by yet.)
7. Lighten up! There are better things to do than worry about things you can't control. Like, for example, you could watch a cat take a shower!
8. Take a Quiz! What does this have to do with earlobes, thin thighs, or heart attacks? Absolutely nothing, but it's Friday and it means it's time for our obligatory Juice quiz question!
This week, the theme at the Juice was "staycations." So with her usual laser-like focus, Crabby blogged about:
a. Staycations for families; staycations for singles; and staycations for couples;
b. Staycations, flatulence, and head lice;
c. Staycations, zombies, and serial killers;
d. Staycations, drag queens, and foot-fetishists;
e. Staycations, spontaneous combustion, and nuclear war.
The answer can be found here or here!
So have a great weekend! And does anyone worry about heightened disease risk or are you all pretty philosophical about it?