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From what will you die? - (7/24/2018)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro 

Mr. Bodkin, 55, was in the pharmacy chatting with the pharmacist as he waited for his prescriptions to be filled. “Too bad about Mrs. Jenkins getting hit by the bus,” said Mr. Bodkin. “I heard she never saw it coming. I bet she didn’t think she would die by public transportation. Do you ever think about how you will die one day?” Now, there’s a cheery thought, the pharmacist said to himself. Surely, the pharmacist hoped he would not get run over at the intersection of Oak and Third. But you never know. Most people would like to die in their sleep at the age of 95 “of natural causes.” After never having a serious disease. After never having a crippling accident. You would simply float to heaven on your Posturepedic mattress. Can you guess from what you will really die? Let’s spin the Wheel of Misfortune. 

The wheel stopped at “death from an infectious disease.” Unlike the beginning of the last century, the 21st century is replete with antibiotics. They are easy to get. Just ask your doctor. Got a sniffle? Got a boo-boo? Get a prescription. You can get an antibiotic for anything. In fact, some pharmacies give away them away for free! Maybe that’s why the antibiotics we have are not working as well. Bacteria are becoming resistant to them. Antibiotic resistance is a natural part of evolution. The antibiotic resistance crisis, however, is a man-made global threat. Due to a number of human-influenced factors, such as climate change, bacteria are now evolving at a rate much faster than research can handle. The result is that more people are dying every year from diseases that were once curable. A 2014 British report contends that while 700,000 people die each year due to current antimicrobial resistance rates, by 2050, that figure will be 10 million-plus. Think such disasters cannot happen? It did during the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 when 5% of the world population died. It did in 1347 when a third of the world population died from bubonic plague. You never know. 

Let’s spin the wheel again. Cancer. No one wants to die from cancer. Yet, our environment is making it more likely. Example 1: Our water is more polluted than ever. True, tap water is mostly free of bacteria and parasites thanks to chlorination. But in the past decade, we have continued to contaminate our waters with chemicals and pesticides. Example 2: Today’s UV rays can penetrate even the thickest sunscreen. Hence, skin cancer. Example 3: Obesity is an epidemic. Fat sets the stage for cancer. Cancer research is at full throttle. Yet, insurance companies balk at paying for the pricey drugs used to control it. Anyway, it is not in Big Pharma’s interest to eradicate all cancer. After all, cancer is a moneymaker. 

Let’s spin once more. Death from addiction. Americans’ lifespan is now lower than in most high-income countries due to death from opioids. Expect this gap to increase, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And if you think you may never get hooked on drugs, consider the secondary stress and depression caused by a family member who is an addict. 

An increase in air pollution means an uptick in potentially fatal respiratory diseases like asthma and emphysema. Climate change is resulting in more extreme weather, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods, which bring famine and disease. With global warming, expect more violence, riots, and crime.  

Yes, many things can kill you in most unexpected ways. So you live your life one day at a time and hope for the best. Because you never know. “Hey!” yelled Mr. Bodkin as he looked out the pharmacy window. “Is that an asteroid heading toward us?”

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.com. Read more at www.rx-press.com  

 


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