Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Healthy Planet = Healthy People

Health + Wellness
Healthy Planet = Healthy People

Imagine if scientists came up with an inexpensive, easily administered way to decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity by 25 to 35 percent. It would create a sensation and, if patented, would be worth billions. But there's already a free and simple way to achieve this: exercise.

The human body evolved over millions of years, long before cars, escalators, laptops and remote controls. It's built to expend effort. Gas-powered vehicles enabled us to move over long distances or get somewhere quickly, but they're bad medicine when they're used to go two or three blocks. Our lives are easier but not necessarily healthier. It's time we put more thought into keeping our bodies active and well, minimizing sickness.

Our health is also improved by exercise, which should be part of the way we live. Outdoor exercise is especially good.

Fitness increases your chances of staying well, but it's not a guarantee. We still have much to learn about the ways in which genetics and environmental conditions affect health. After the first human genome survey was completed in 2003, we thought DNA sequences would reveal the secrets of disease and speed development of treatments. But despite trillions of dollars spent on research, many cancers are still unsolved and we've learned that only a few diseases—such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington's chorea and sickle cell anemia—are the result of only one gene.

Most conditions result from the interplay of heredity and environment. And because many genes each add a small bit to defects like cancer, heart disease and dementia, magic bullet cures are elusive. Meanwhile, health care costs show little sign of stabilizing and increasing obesity and an aging population will drive them higher.

Health is about risk management. We can't choose our parents, so there's little we can do about the hereditary component of disease unless you subscribe to the promise of technological engineering like gene splicing and editing. But we can influence external factors, like diet, exercise, habits and environment.

Consider air, water and food.

We need air every minute of our lives to ignite the fuel in our body to give us energy. We suck two to three liters deep into the warm, moist recesses of our lungs. Our alveoli are smeared with surfactants that reduce surface tension and enable air to stick so oxygen and whatever else is in that breath can enter our bloodstream. Carbon dioxide leaves our body when we exhale. Lungs filter whatever's in the air. Deprived of air for three minutes, we die. Forced to live in polluted air, we sicken.

We are 60 to 70 percent water by weight. Every cell in our body is inflated by water. Water allows metabolic reactions to occur and enables molecules to move within and between cells and, when we drink it, we also take in whatever's in it, from molecules like DDT and PCBs to viruses, bacteria and parasites.

All the cells and structures of our body are molecules assembled from the debris of plants and animals we consume. If we spray or inject food plants and animals with toxic chemicals and then consume them, we incorporate those chemicals into our very being, sometimes passing them on to our offspring before they're even born.

We put effort and money into searching for disease causes. But screening toxic effects of thousands of new molecules every year is painstaking and expensive, so most are never tested. Often, mirroring genetic effects, different molecules, each harmless on its own, may collectively create a problem. Research is beginning to show that even diseases with genetic components, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, can be triggered by pesticide exposure. When we consider the vast array of chemicals spewed into air, water and soil, predicting those that may interact with each other and our genetic makeup to create health problems is difficult if not impossible.

Our health is tied to air, water and food from the soil. That means we should keep them clean and stop dumping toxic wastes into them. Our health is also improved by exercise, which should be part of the way we live. Outdoor exercise is especially good. As the David Suzuki Foundation's 30x30 May Nature Challenge demonstrates, connecting with nature is beneficial for physical and mental health. Caring for ourselves and the biosphere would pay many times over in improved health and happiness.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Why Is This Hormone-Disrupting Pesticide Banned in Europe But Widely Used in the U.S.?

Interactive Maps Show Where Monsanto's Roundup Is Sprayed in San Francisco and Portland

10 Ways to Prevent or Reverse Heart Disease Without Taking Drugs

Can Superfoods Help Boost the Planet's Health, Too?

Colette Pichon Battle, attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. Colette Pichon Battle

By Karen L. Smith-Janssen

Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A palm tree plantation in Malaysia. Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Getty Images Plus

Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A home burns during the Bobcat Fire in Juniper Hills, California on September 18, 2020. Kyle Grillot / AFP/ Getty Images

By Stuart Braun

"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."

Read More Show Less
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world. PickPik

A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.

Read More Show Less
The label of one of the recalled thyroid medications. FDA

If you are taking medication for an underactive thyroid, check your prescription.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch