Yesterday, out of the blue I was hit with a stabbing lower back pain. It doubled me over, and by late afternoon I was lying in bed wondering what could have happened. I called two of my favorite people, one a wise woman and the other a very smart cardiologist. It seemed I had a choice between a torn artery or a kidney stone. I opted for the kidney stone because there is a possibility that I can handle it myself (me and my smart cells). I try to avoid hospitals because I think they are dangerous places, and even doctors, who can lead you into dangerous places.
But what to write about? I was going to write about the local casinos, but I was in too much pain to revisit them. It is said that the best places for inspiration or creative thinking are the bed, the bath and the bus. I spent a lot of time in bed yesterday with no particularly creative thoughts coming, and there is no way I can climb aboard a bus, although I have had some fine ideas looking out the window or at other passengers. And unfortunately, I haven’t had a bathtub in 20 years. (Just as well, because at this moment I am in greater danger of drowning myself than coming up with anything inspirational.)
My dear friend Ellen has always loved to take long baths, and she has written three novels and countless articles and is now doing research and writing about global health, specifically right now, non-communicable illnesses.
We have been having an ongoing disagreement over the past months. I said that the life expectancy of Americans is going to be shorter for our children than for us and that we will not live as long as our parents. Actually, I predicted that anyone born after 1930 was not going to live as long as those born before that date. And as some readers will recall I have harped on the fact that we are not as healthy as we once were. Now I see that the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine have published the results of a long-term study that confirms my own dismal predictions. I was off by five years on my prediction of longevity, and I did not take into account the fact that accidents and violent deaths would figure so strongly, even though I have questioned whether the supposition that early humans lived “short brutish lives” took into account accidents and infant mortality. We have assumed they were not as healthy as today’s people.
Some people confuse life span with life expectancy. Life span is the greatest number of years a human can expect to live. (Somewhat less than what the Bible claims.) Life expectancy is based on the statistical prediction of the average length of time people in a designated group are expected to live.
I have often mentioned that I belong to the small is beautiful crowd. When it comes to countries, small countries are easier to govern and regulate than large countries. One law passed by the Legislature applies to the entire population, even in different cantons or regions. Therefore, Costa Rica has been able to make laws affecting the health of their people throughout the country.
I am grateful to them for the no smoking in any building law (including casinos) that went into effect last year. I also approve of their recent law that requires every resident (although not citizens) to belong to the national health insurance system known as the Caja. You can’t have a decent health care system without enough money to cover the cost. Of course, it is another matter to get people to obey the laws. Someone recently said that the national pastime in Greece was avoiding paying taxes.
I think that in Costa Rica it is second only to fútbol.
The editors and longevity researchers who write about the Blue Zones in the world (i.e. places where the people are the healthiest and live the longest), found the Nicoya Peninsula in little Costa Rica and only one, the community of Loma Linda, California, in the United States. Most of the other Blue Zones were in other small countries or islands.
If my kidney is harboring a stone, I hope it remembers that small is beautiful.