Putting a happy face on health | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Jul 16, 2014

I drove by a fast-food restaurant the other day, one that features as its mascot and commercial spokesperson a creature who looks an awful lot like a clown.

Across the street was another, much more famous fast-food restaurant whose mascot and commercial spokesperson is an actual clown (or was; I don’t keep up).

This has always struck me as a strange marketing strategy, considering that humans seem to be genetically wired to be very, very afraid of clowns. Especially children, who are, one suspects, the main targets of these mascots. And who, one suspects, feel very targeted, if not in a good way.

I once dressed up as a clown for a circus-themed event at my daughter’s elementary school. I’m pretty sorry I did.

Clowns weren’t on my mind, though. It was just a stray memory of my first experience with a drive-thru restaurant, which featured speaking into the mouth of a very large clown’s head. I was a small child, but maybe clowns were different back then.

All of this is irrelevant, except that I can remember when drive-thrus and intercom ordering were novel, which means I’m old, which meant I should probably schedule a doctor’s appointment.

Older people, or at least older Americans, seem genetically wired to visit doctors, if you haven’t noticed. I remember my grandparents going to the doctor, I believe, several times a day, although they seemed fine.

This has always struck me as a bad idea, or several bad ideas. It can lead to unnecessary tests, done for the sake of doing something, which drives up the cost of healthcare for all of us.

And if you visit a medical professional often enough, they’ll probably find something that’s wrong. It will most likely go away all by itself, or else slowly kill you, but you’re going to die anyway and it would be more pleasant without having to get an MRI.

I practice what I preach, by the way, but I also believe in preventative care, and my insurance policy allows me one well-check a year with no out-of-pocket expenses on my part, so I made an appointment. I made it online, which itself is sort of novel. No clowns were involved.

I’ve already been, in fact, by the time you read this. I am fine.

It’s always possible that there’s some asymptomatic disease creeping into my system, or some malignancy growing on a part of my body not easily visible in the mirror, but I’m pretty sure I’m fine. I always am. There are lots of things in my past that might catch up with me, but they’re not here yet.

So, knock on wood. I’m probably just in a neutral zone of reasonable health, with no particularly bad habits and a few good ones. I could eat better, but we all could. I exercise plenty. I don’t watch cable news or listen to talk radio, so my stress level and blood pressure remain pretty manageable.

But there was a recent scientific study about Americans and their habits, and I realized there was reason to worry, and that reason is that there will be more studies.

I can’t help it; I’m drawn to these things, always looking for an edge, a way to up my odds of not keeling over. A couple of years ago I took an enormous amount of vitamin D3 for a few weeks, having read a study that seemed to show a correlation between that and a lower risk of cancer, until I got tired of taking so many vitamins and also another study came out that said the first one was bogus.

Since the 1970s, Americans have been told that they eat too much fat. This low-fat theology is still strong, which only means that well-intentioned eaters switched to food that swapped out fat for sugar, and now there are lots of studies about the dangers of sugar.

Eggs are bad for you, of course, because of the cholesterol, but wait, now they’re great sources of protein, and maybe cholesterol isn’t such a big deal anyway.

Studies linking cellphone use to cancer looked ominous once, then benign, and now questionable again, although judging from the people I spot driving and talking I suspect that brain damage is very possible.

And now sitting is bad. Real bad. Sitting is the new smoking. Sitting will kill you, we’re told, although I assume Paleolithic Man did some sitting, and aren’t we supposed to model ourselves after Paleolithic Man? Or maybe I’m thinking of something else.

Maybe it’s Mediterranean sitting we’re supposed to do. Or maybe we’re supposed to eat yogurt. I’m pretty sure smoking is still bad, although someone is surely studying that, too.

They can mess with you, these studies. I’m writing this while sitting. I haven’t had yogurt in years. I rarely talk on my cellphone, but it stays in my pocket a lot. My pocket is far from my brain, but closer to other stuff. The possibilities of danger are all around.

This is why I go to the doctor once a year. She tells me I don’t need the vitamins. She tells me not to smoke, and to keep exercising. She tells me to get a flu shot unless I really like the flu. She tells me to come back in a year.

She says nothing about avoiding clowns selling hamburgers. So I’m on my own there until there’s a new study. Wish me luck.

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