It don't hurt that much

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

October 2007

There's a story about the young farmer who stopped by to chat with his elderly neighbor. As they sat on the steps, the host's hound dog lying on the porch above them would let out a groaning howl every now and then. "What's the matter with your dog?" asked the young man. "He's lying on a nail," was the reply.

"Why don't he move?"

"It don't hurt that much."

Creeping obesity, that extra pound that most persons add every year from late adolescence through middle age, don't hurt that much. Extra weight makes knees a little sore, causes breaths to come a little faster, keeps us from sleeping well and prevents us from playing games with our children and grandchildren. But it don't hurt enough to make us move.

As blood pressure inches up and blood sugar approaches the diabetes level we barely notice the discomfort. Fatigue? I must be getting old. Poor memory? What do you expect at fifty? Cholesterol a little high? It runs in the family. These things don't hurt enough to make us move.

We ignore the warning signs of the deadliest diseases that descend upon us. Did you know that a large waist size is evidence of disease already in progress? It is one of the signs of metabolic syndrome, a condition that is present in fully one-third of adults in America. A waist size of more than 40 inches in men and 35 ½ inches in women is simply not normal — and it doesn't matter how tall you are!

Of course a large waist doesn't cause pain, just a little discomfort while you're putting on your socks or tying your shoes. It don't hurt much.

Do your knees hurt when you walk a couple of blocks? It could be because of an old football injury, and heck, it don't hurt much. More than likely that pain is the result of a few extra pounds that crash down on the knee joint with every step. Eventually the cartilage that covers the ends of the bone begins to wear thin. Does it hurt enough to make the average sufferer lose weight? Nope! It just don't hurt that much.

It's true that aging takes a toll on our physical performance and that added years bring added problems but we simply put up with chronic diseases that we could, with some effort, postpone for decades.

When do we hurt enough to get up from that nail? For most people it takes a bout of crushing chest pain and a trip to the Emergency Room. That is, if you're in the lucky fifty percent that lives long enough to get there.

The four diseases that kill most of us — heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease — don't cause much pain until the damage is done, the disease beyond cure. The good news is that each of them is almost 100 percent avoidable with the proper lifestyle. In the case of cancer the estimate is only 80 percent, but that's still a huge number.

Take a close look. Are you lying on a nail?

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.