The media has published articles on many different health topics recently. These have included traumatic brain injury from individuals receiving repetitive trauma to the head, the Zeka virus and what people should know, the thwarted merger between pharmaceutical giants, Pfizer and Allergen, and many others. I was also surprised the food documentary, PlantPure Nation, made the NetFlix line-up. Today, I want to have everyone stop and think about the, not so obvious but real, health risks we experience every day. This topic is not typically covered in the media to any degree.

    Health is complicated and we are just beginning to understand there are many complicated and inter-related variables involved. The brain, the trillion bacteria in the microbiome of the gut, genetic activation, and belief systems all are health variables. The inputs of life are either going to make us stronger or weaken our body. We now know the food ingested, our rest and movement patterns, and the plethora of chemicals in our life play a role in health. In certain age groups, the risks to health vary. In the womb, our mother’s health habits play a role. In our youth, accidents and developing habits can influence health. Even the media and interactions with others play a role in health.

    Recently, I have been intrigued by the benefits of good inputs as well as the relative risk of bad inputs. Little data is available on whether drinking water or eating fiber at age 55 is more useful than exercising and avoiding processed foods. We just need more data, but until then, common sense will have to do. Of course, we want to address the greater risks and adopt the inputs with the greater benefits in a stepwise improvement of health.

    In the 16-20 age group for instance, the number #1 health risk is driving.  Eighty per cent of accidents are attributed to “distracted” driving.  Distractions are classified as:  visual, kinetic and cognitive. Over 500,000 deaths and injuries occur in a motor vehicle each year due to cell phone usage. There is a 6 times greater risk of an accident if on a cell phone and an 8 folds increase in risk if on a “blue-tooth”, “speaker-phone” or “hands-free.”   If texting, the risk of an accident increases 23 times.  In addition to encouraging individuals, especially those in the 16-20 age group, to drink water, exercise, eat more fiber, and limit media exposure, we also need to emphasize safety in driving and give them the advantage of driver’s ed, accident avoidance workshops and hours of supervised practice.

    My 15 year-old son is currently taking an accident avoidance workshop.   I never thought the process of learning to drive, defensively and safely, to be just as important to his health, as learning to eat well, rest, exercise or drink water. In fact, 16 year olds are 10 times more likely to be involved in a crash.  With other teens in the vehicle, the likelihood of a fatal crash doubles. However, the evidence says that spending time on this health factor, is just as, if not more important, than developing other favorable health habits.

    Ninety eight per cent of drivers have less than 10 minutes of defensive driving instruction. With this in mind, I want to leave 8 thoughts for all those who have the health risk of being in a car, especially for those less than twenty years of age.

    1. Find a safe car to drive including one that is properly maintained.
    2. Never drink and use mind-altering substances while driving.
    3. No cell phones. This covers texting and hand free devices.
    4. The first year of driving, avoid the radio.
    5. No romantic interest or other peers in the car during the first year of gaining experience in the car.
    6. If possible, avoid driving late at night.
    7. Avoid driving when fatigued or tired.
    8. Consider taking a defensive driving course.

    In thinking about health, remember, all inputs will either improve or worsen chemistry. Try to identify the inputs, which place your health at greatest risk. Also, identify the habits that may improve health. If possible work on the greatest risks and the factors with the greatest benefits first. If less than 20, definitely think about the risk of being in a car especially if you are in the driver’s seat.