Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Future of Health: Innovations, and How Being a Good Person Can Keep You Healthy

Did you know that each of the top 7 causes of death in America, besides accidents (number 5), is partially caused by one or more of the same five risk factors or clusters? Did you know that by taking care of yourself, the people around you, and the earth, you can avoid these risk factors without even thinking? This is based on my own online research.

Top 6 Causes of Death: Heart Disease; Cancer; Stroke; Lower Respiratory Diseases (i.e. bronchitis); Accidents; Alzheimer's Disease; Diabetes

Risk Factors: Obesity, unhealthy diet, inactivity; High cholesterol/blood pressure; Tobacco; Stress; Radiation, pollutants


• Maintain a reasonable, healthy weight by eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.
• Keep your body and mind healthy by avoiding stress and taking your life more easily.
• Avoid smoking and other obviously unhealthy behaviors.
• Avoid carcinogens by living in a place with clean air and avoiding processed, unnatural foods and personal care products.

Going back to my last post, can Generation Y take this on? I think so. We have been known to care about the environment, which will certainly reduce environmental pollutants as well as the popularity of unhealthy products. Young people are smoking less, and as that web page shows, there are ways to reduce the prevalence of smoking. And while it may take some extra planning to get us moving and off the internet, college students are becoming vegetarians in record numbers. Vegetarians tend to be slimmer, eat more fiber, and eat less cholesterol (which is only found in animal products and meat). So as we help animals and the environment, we are maintaining a healthy lifestyle too.

Interestingly, volunteering and leading a meaningful life can reduce stress too, which boosts your immune system and keeps you healthier. Here's an idea: volunteer for health. Help educate children or adults about diet, exercise, or eco-friendly living. Go to a hospital or hospice center and play a fun game with someone who is terminally ill. Comfort their families. There are plenty of opportunities. Just keep yourself healthy with the knowledge that you are helping others in the same respect.

Recent Innovations in Health

Cancer: It's important to remember that the prevalence of cancer only exploded as we began to eat processed foods and meat with every meal, do sedentary work, and live around chemicals and pollution. We can greatly reduce rates of cancer if we change those circumstances. But for now, people are getting cancer, so we do need improvements in diagnoses, comfort, and cures.

As for that first problem, ever heard of cancer sniffing dogs? They might be the future of cancer detection. Other methods of detection are pretty unreliable, depending on the types of cancer. But recent studies have found that one dog can detect colorectal cancer accurately 98% of the time.*

Burn Treatment: Judging by movies like Shallow Hal, we can all see that a burn is probably one of the least desirable injuries. This is partially because it involves a long, painful recovery using skin grafts. That's when a healthy portion of skin is removed and put in an area where the unhealthy, burnt skin has been removed. It takes months to heal. I remember learning in a psychology course that the severity of the pain of burns in children can be significantly reduced through a virtual reality game called Ice World.

But now we may not have to worry so much, as there is a new experimental healing technique that only takes a few days! It's called a skin gun, and it essentially involves spraying healthy stem cells onto damaged skin. It sounds very promising to me, although I'm no expert.

Shirts That Prevent Pollution: Two awesome-sounding NYU graduate students decided to prevent pollution through fashion for their project. They created sweatshirts that change color when exposed to carbon monoxide. One pictures lungs, and the other a heart. They are also thinking of making a liver shirt that changes color when you drink too much alcohol. This is a very clever idea because if people can finally visualize the invisible harm they do to themselves or the air, maybe they will be more motivated to change.

What do you think of these innovations? Have you heard about any others?

*If you're interested in the specifics, dogs can smell cancer on someone's breath. Samples are contained in cups and dogs are trained to sit in front of samples that contain cancer.


  1. Fascinating information! I like the shirt idea.

    I do have a lot of confidence in Generation Y. My generation certainly hasn't been overly beneficial for the planet. We started out with a lot of promise, but so many people my age sold out to the "American Dream" somewhere along the way. I am so often impressed by the younger people I meet - so aware...

  2. Well, it remains to be seen whether that will happen to us. But I think we are more accountable to each other since we are in contact with peers all over the world on the internet. There is also the sense of impending doom to keep us on the right track :)