By Dr. Mercola
Dr. Doug McGuff, M.D., is an emergency room physician and, as such, is uniquely positioned to speak about the common ways people end up dying prematurely. He has a unique perspective as he has worked for over twenty years in the ER and viewed firsthand the most common mistakes that people make that wind up seriously harming them or prematurely ending their life.
I’ve interviewed him previously on the topic of high-intensity interval training using weights, but here he speaks about his experiences working in the ER – and, more importantly, what you can do to stay out of it.
Black Swan Avoidance – The Dirty Dozen Ways to Die That You Can Avoid
Dr. McGuff calls the risks that follow “black swans.” By steering clear of them and instead using the tips that follow, you can protect your health from not only tragic accidents but also more insidious threats.
1. Buy a Big Car
Accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. You probably can’t stop driving … but you can protect yourself better by buying a bigger car. In a collision, generally the bigger the car you’re in, the safer you’ll be. Also important is choosing a car that is loaded with airbags.
2. No 4-Wheel ATVs
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are a popular hobby for many, but they’re also responsible for hundreds of deaths, and over 100,000 emergency room visits, every year.1 Dr. McGuff has seen too many people who have died or become paralyzed (including children) after using these vehicles, so his advice is to just stay off.
3. Roads are for Cars
If you love jogging or cycling, do it indoors or on a designated walking/biking path. If you do so on the road, you’re risking your life to distracted drivers who often don’t see or slow down for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2010, for instance, 618 cyclists were killed and an additional 52,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.2
4. Only Pilot if You’re a Professional
If you’ve devoted your life to becoming a professional pilot, good for you. If not, stay out of the sky. Part-time amateur pilots simply have not put in the extensive time needed to hone their piloting skills, and as a result are at a much higher risk of crashing and getting killed.
5. Heel Dust
If you see a group of men walking toward you on the street, and they appear intoxicated, angry or aggressive, cross to the other side. Any time you are faced with a confrontation with an aggressive person, your best bet is to show them “heel dust” – in other words, run away, don’t fight.
6. Gas Grill
I’ve written on some of the dangers of eating grilled food, but Dr. McGuff speaks about the dangers from lighting one. If your gas grill won’t start, he says, walk away. Otherwise, the gas build-up can lead to major flames when it finally does ignite, and this can translate to third-degree burns, or worse, for you. Not to mention, gas grills are involved in nearly 7,000 home fires a year.3
7. Feet First
Thinking of diving into a pool, lake, ocean or any other body of water? Don’t. At least, not until you’ve jumped in feet first, first, so you can determine how deep the water is. Diving in head first into a too-shallow body of water can break your neck, paralyze you, or kill you, so just don’t do it.
An estimated 800 spinal cord injuries occur each year from people diving into a body of water, and 90 percent of these happen in water depths less than six feet.4 Generally, a minimum water depth of at least nine feet is recommended for head-first dives.
Your intentions are good – you want to hang holiday lights or fix a shingle on your roof. But climbing onto a ladder to do so can quickly turn deadly. If you can, hire a professional to do any painting or other repairs that require you to climb a ladder, so you can avoid becoming one of the more than 164,000 people who end up in emergency rooms each year due to ladder-related injuries.5
9. Retirement “Dream” Homes
Thinking of building your dream home to live out your retirement years in bliss? Find one that already exists and just move in instead. According to Dr. McGuff, he sees an inordinate number of people suffering from heart attacks caused by the stress from – you guessed it – dealing with contractors and other issues while building their retirement home.
10. “Hell No!”
If anyone tells you to get into a car at the point of a weapon, your response should be, “Hell no!” Once you get into a car against your will, you will most certainly die, likely after suffering immensely. Do whatever you need to do to NOT get in the car – run, yell, scream, fight back, anything to keep from getting into that car.
11. Bad Relationships
About 15 percent of the population has psychotic, anti-social personality disorders. When you are in a relationship with one of these people, you will feel emotionally fatigued and upset, recurrently. If you notice these signs, ditch the relationship, and that may include a family member, friend, employer, etc.
Relationship problems, like most emotional struggles, represent a major drain on your health and well-being, so be ruthless in cutting any unhealthy relationships from your life.
Don’t play it! Unearned wealth will destroy you. “If you get money you did not earn, it will take you down!” Dr. McGuff says. If you don’t believe this, do an Internet search for stories of lottery winners, and you’ll see the wrath that often follows …
13. Bonus: Be Kind
Being kind is the most important strategy for your health and for society, according to Dr. McGuff. This makes sense, as people tend to attract the energy that they give off, so if you are kind you’re likely to be surrounded by kindness in return.
You Can Prevent Most Leading Causes of Death
Dr. McGuff’s speech is an exercise in empowerment, as these are examples of potentially deadly activities that you can and should avoid. The fact is, while you can’t avoid dying, you can often avoid dying prematurely. Most chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, are largely preventable with simple lifestyle changes. Even infectious diseases like the flu can often be warded off by a healthy way of life, which is best implemented by the comprehensive Nutrition Plan that I have developed and is available free to you.
Imagine the lowered death toll, not to mention costs to the economy, if more people decided to take control of their health … heart disease and cancer alone accounted for 47 percent of deaths in the United States in 2010, and there are many strategies you can implement to lower your risk of these diseases … and most of the leading causes of death in the United States. The added bonus to this is that the healthier you are, the less you will need to rely on conventional medical care, which is another leading cause of death. So what does a "healthy lifestyle" entail?
Proper Food Choices
For a comprehensive guide on which foods to eat and which to avoid, see my nutrition plan. Generally speaking, you should be looking to focus your diet on whole, unprocessed foods (vegetables, meats, raw dairy, nuts, and so forth) that come from healthy, sustainable, local sources, such as a small organic farm not far from your home. For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw. Personally, I aim to eat about 80-85 percent of my food raw, including raw eggs.
Nearly as important as knowing which foods to eat more plentifully is knowing which foods to avoid, and topping the list is fructose. Sugar, and fructose in particular, acts as a toxin in and of itself, and as such drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of accelerated aging.
Comprehensive Exercise Program, including High-Intensity Exercise like Peak Fitness
Even if you're eating the healthiest diet in the world, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including not only core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching but also high-intensity activities into your rotation.
High-intensity interval-type training gives a natural boost to human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. I've discussed the importance of Peak Fitness for your health on numerous occasions, so for more information, please review this previous article.
Stress Reduction and Positive Thinking
You cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional component of your health and longevity, as your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease -- from heart disease and depression, to arthritis and cancer. Effective coping mechanisms are a major longevity-promoting factor in part because stress increases inflammation in the body, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day. Meditation, prayer, social support and exercise, as well as my personal favorite the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium.
Proper Sun Exposure to Optimize Vitamin D
We have long known that it is best to get your vitamin D from sun exposure, and if at all possible, I strongly urge you to make sure you're getting out in the sun on a daily basis. Vitamin D plays an important role in preventing numerous illnesses ranging from cancer to the flu.
The important factor when it comes to vitamin D is your serum level, which should ideally be between 50-70 ng/ml year-round. Sun exposure or a safe tanning bed is the preferred method for optimizing vitamin D levels, but a vitamin D3 supplement can be used as a last resort. Most adults need about 8,000 IU's of vitamin D a day to achieve serum levels above 40 ng/ml, which is still just below the minimum recommended serum level of 50 ng/ml.
High Quality Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats
Animal-based omega-3 fat sources like krill oil are a strong factor in helping people live longer, and many experts believe that it is likely the predominant reason why the Japanese are the longest lived race on the planet.
Avoid as Many Chemicals, Toxins, and Pollutants as Possible
This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.