The Luck of the Draw

Some people do all the right things and still develop serious health problems. Others flaunt their bad habits and are able to live long lives, dying peacefully in their sleep at the age of 95. For example, high blood pressure (hypertension, HTN) is a common chronic disease in the United States. With HTN a person's heart has to work much harder, all the time, to pump the blood needed by the rest of the body. HTN is associated with heart attacks and stroke, and hypertensive heart disease is a leading cause of death. 1

HTN is often described as a lifestyle disease. 2,3 Those who are overweight and/or obese (this characterizes two-thirds of American adults) are at increased risk for HTN, as are persons with diabetes. People who don't exercise regularly are more likely to develop high blood pressure, as are those who smoke cigarettes. In fact, overweight/obesity, lack of exercise, and tobacco use are the top three causes of HTN.

Obviously, achieving an average weight, exercising regularly, and stopping smoking (or never starting) are three main lifestyle actions related to decreasing one's risk of developing HTN. But some people who are slim, have exercised all their lives, and do not smoke may still develop high blood pressure. In such a case, HTN is termed "essential hypertension". The person has a very healthy lifestyle, there are no risk factors for HTN, and still they become hypertensive. That is the luck of the draw, otherwise known as a genetic predisposition to this disease.

In a contrasting example, a few people may smoke two packs of cigarettes a day since age 15, drink a quart of gin every few days, and never get really sick. They don't develop lung cancer or liver cancer and have no problems with HTN or heart disease, and live lives that fly in the face of all received wisdom in the field of public health. They continue to thrive well into their 80s and beyond and love to tell their well-meaning friends and relatives, "I've never been sick a day in my life" while lighting up another cigarette. Such persons are described by epidemiologists as outliers, those whose health parameters represent an outlying 2.5% or less of the standard values. Their luck of the draw lies in possessing an indestructible constitution.

Of course the exceptions only prove the rule. Their existence does not suggest that rules for good health should not be observed. Regular vigorous exercise and a healthful diet containing plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are important for all of us, young and old. Chiropractic care is an important component of the lifestyle mix. Chiropractic care helps people, young and old, achieve the best health possible. This natural form of health care helps take the "luck" out of the equation. We can make our own luck and chiropractic helps us do that in the arena of health and well-being.

1Zhang WW, et al: Hypertension and TIA. Int J Stroke 4(3):206-214, 2009
2Schmid AA, et al: Current blood pressure self-management: a qualitative study. Rehabil Nurs 34(6):223-229, 2009
3Pascual JM, et al: Body weight variation and control of cardiovascular risk factors in essential hypertension. Blood Press 18(5):247-254

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