7 Random Things You Won't Believe Are Shortening Your Life
Most "tips" for living longer are pretty obvious stuff: eat healthy, don't work too much, stay fit, go on lots of vacations, maybe don't be a popular rock musician aged 27. It turns out that not only are some of these popular beliefs full of shit, but the real longevity indicators are things you probably wouldn't guess in a hundred years, even if you managed to live that long.
Starting School Early Gives Kids a Head Start (On Death)
Starting kids in school as early as possible sounds like a great idea for a number of reasons: it works their brain muscles at a crucial point in development when they're rapidly learning, teaches them to socialize with other kids and, most importantly, gets the little bastards the hell out of the house for a few hours.
Daddy needs his "pretend my life isn't ruined" time.
They might complain about getting up early and doing homework, but they'll thank us when they're older ... or if they're older. We say that because an extensive 90-year study found that kids who start school really early live shorter lives.
Researchers think the fact that kids are developing so fast at that age is exactly why it's a terrible idea to start them too early. There's a huge difference between 5- and 6-year-olds; on average, 6-year-olds are going to be much bigger, and 5-year-olds much less socially advanced. Throw them into the same classroom and they're going to find it hard to relate to each other in a way that doesn't involve the taking or giving of wedgies.
"You deserve this because you're different from me."
By analyzing the lives of thousands of test subjects from the 1920s onward, the researchers found that being ostracized as a kid leads to lifelong emotional problems, which leads to unhealthy behavior, which leads to a shorter lifespan. In fact, starting age is so important that you don't even have to be a full year younger than your classmates to be screwed for life. In countries like Australia, Norway and the U.K., where there's a mandatory starting age, the kids whose birthdays fall in the summer are less likely to get good grades and go to college than their classmates. All because of when their birthday is.
"You kids can achieve anything, unless you were born in July."
So if you want your kids to get a head start on everyone else, bear in mind that you're also giving them a head start on dying (starring Steven Seagal). But hey, at least we're talking about a thing you can change. Unlike ...
Being the Oldest Child Means Dying the Youngest
There are several disadvantages to being the youngest son: You are clothed with everyone else's hand-me-downs, you get less attention than your brothers got when they were your age and you live in a house where practically everyone else can kick your ass. But as your brothers rub their saliva-soaked fingers in your ears and punch you in the shoulder, one thing you can always hang over their heads is that you're less likely to get cancer of the balls. A recent study concluded that older sons have a much higher risk of getting testicular cancer than their younger brothers.
So take advantage of that edge in size while you still can.
The study analyzed over a million men in the Danish Cancer Registry and found that later-born sons were 20 percent less likely to get this type of cancer than most people, as opposed to firstborn sons, who have a 25 percent higher chance of having their balls attacked by the big C than their brothers. Other factors didn't seem to make a difference, so apparently this is something that's settled in the womb.
The theory is that the first son gets the pristine uterus, and so gets bathed in larger amounts of estrogen, which, being the opposite of testosterone, doesn't exactly agree with your balls. The good news is that the survival rates for testicular cancer are around 95 percent, so relax. No, seriously, please relax, because another study says that if you're a firstborn, you're also more likely to die from a heart attack.
Look, kittens. (Don't die reading this article.)
A similar study found that firstborns have a much greater chance of developing coronary heart disease, and this one goes for both men and women. Of the 348 CHD sufferers included in the study, 49 percent turned out to hit leadoff in the familial batting order. Unlike the cancer thing, this has nothing to do with their mom's womb and everything to do with the fact that, scientifically speaking, oldest siblings tend to be assholes.
"That's right, son. Mommy's next try will be exactly like you, only 30 percent less shitty."
Researchers think that firstborns are more likely to develop "type A" personalities, and aggressive perfectionists tend to be unlucky in the heart attack sweepstakes. And speaking of which ...
The Bigger Your Butt, the Longer Your Life
Want to beat heart attacks? Have a larger butt.
A recent study found that if a woman has a "pear-shaped" physique, then she has less of a chance of suffering from metabolic and heart diseases. It's not just a matter of buying a crate of Fritos and sitting on your ever-expanding ass for a week; rather, it's about having a genetic predisposition to grow fat on your butt and thighs instead of your stomach and other places.
You can save time by just adding fatty food directly to your butt.
Oxford's Dr. Konstantinos Manolopoulos studied the properties of the type of fat stored in large posteriors. Manolopoulos (Greek for "cannot lie") discovered that this specific type of fat is better at permanently absorbing fatty acids, keeping them away from your arteries and lowering the chances of them getting clogged. What this adds up to is that women with "the big butt gene" are less likely to die from heart attacks.
The same study concluded that Jennifer Lopez will outlast the heat death of the universe.
Manolopoulos also found that body fat in the lower half of our anatomy (which he inexplicably failed to call "booty fat") releases beneficial hormones that fight diseases like diabetes.
The fact that middle-aged men tend to gain weight in the waist and middle-aged women tend to gain it in the thighs might explain why men are more likely to have heart attacks than women. Meanwhile, the fact that rappers tend to desire big old asses might explain why Sir Mix-A-Lot was so apologetic about liking big butts. Singing a song mocking girls without life-expectancy cushions in their back pockets is just mean.
Above: A scale replica of Methuselah's ass.
Frequent Flyer Miles Earn You a Trip to an Early Grave
Rich people generally have it made when it comes to life expectancy. You need a six-figure budget if you want to shop at one of those earthy grocery chains that sells nonprocessed fresh food. Those of us on more modest budgets are just thankful Taco Bell now comes wrapped in a big Dorito, since it allows us to hit the two most affordable foods for the price of one. And it probably can't hurt that rich people get to spend weeks decompressing on tropical vacations while we get to vacation at the least polluted body of water within driving distance.
Good ol' Lake Syphilis.
Actually, vacations are one way the 99 percent get to cosmically even the score with the rich guys jet-setting around the globe. It turns out that if you're a frequent enough flyer, your jaunts to the tropics come with the benefit of large doses of radiation.
And it's not even the good, spider-related type of radiation.
Every time you fly in an airplane, your body is exposed to a small amount of radiation that can add up over time and, in some cases, increase cancer risk. And no, this has nothing to do with those new scanners they use to take a peek at your junk. Those are perfectly safe. We're talking about cosmic radiation. As in the kind that stars and the sun are constantly bombarding our planet with.
"Take that, you dicks."
Most of it gets filtered out by the atmosphere by the time it gets to you on the ground, but at a high altitude it's much more potent: According to radiation expert Robert J. Barish, if you fly more than 85,000 miles a year, you should qualify as a radiation worker.
That means that if a businessman has to fly from New York to Tokyo once every couple of months, he's absorbing more radiation than most people whose jobs are to work with radioactive equipment.
But with worse food.
And if flying is not just a part of your job, but the whole thing, you have it even worse: According to the statistics, pilots and flight attendants are more likely to die of cancer. Airlines in Europe are required to inform crew members about the dangers of in-flight radiation, but not in the U.S. ... as if the Fantastic Four somehow gave us all the impression that cosmic radiation is harmless.
Dammit, Stan Lee.
Being higher than everyone else isn't always harmful, however ...
Being Higher Means Living Longer
One of the disadvantages of living at higher altitudes is that there's less oxygen in the air, which can suck for those with respiratory problems. One of the advantages of those places, however, is that ... there's less oxygen in the air. A lack of oxygen makes people's bodies more efficient, which makes them live longer.
Try it at home!
In a four-year study, researchers from several institutions analyzed death certificates from every county in the U.S. and realized that most of the top 20 counties with the highest life expectancy happened to be in Utah and Colorado, two of the three highest states in the nation. Compared to those living near sea level, the people in those counties live up to 3.6 years longer for men and up to 2.5 years longer for women.
Which means more time to enjoy all of Utah's wonders. Like truck stops without coffee and super-light beer.
Apparently, it's all about not being gluttons when it comes to using oxygen. Dr. Benjamin Honigman at the University of Colorado School of Medicine theorized that the lower levels of oxygen force the body to become more efficient at distributing that oxygen, activating certain genes that enhance heart function and create new blood vessels for bringing blood to and from the heart, greatly lowering the chances of heart disease. The alternate theory that these people evolved stronger hearts to withstand yeti encounters in the mountains remains unproven.
Honigman also believes that living at a higher altitude might help prevent some types of cancer -- in fact, Colorado has a lower rate of colon and lung cancer than most other states. The only downside, of course, is that you still live in Colorado.
We'll take our chances.
Churches Are Full of Old People Because Those People Are Highlanders
Believe it or not, there's a town in California called Loma Linda where a significant chunk of the population lives five to 10 years longer than everyone else. The catch: They are all Seventh-Day Adventists. So it's probably like Woody Allen said: "You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred."
"More specifically, hard drugs and bear wrestling."
After all, Adventists tend to not drink or smoke and generally live healthier lifestyles, so that probably explains it, right? Nope: Even Loma Linda Adventists who half-ass it and partake in all the things that should kill them still get extra longevity, and science isn't sure why.
It happens with people of other religions, too: A study in Colorado found that people who go to church regularly live around seven years longer than those who don't. Considering what we just told you about living in Colorado, if the people in that study also have giant butts, they're practically immortal.
The only reason they all aren't sword fighting for each other's Quickening is that the church is on hallowed ground.
Apparently, the increase in life expectancy for older people who go to church is "comparable to that of people who don't smoke over those who do." That's right -- skipping church is as bad for your health as smoking.
This difference may be explained by the fact that people who are spiritual tend to have lower levels of anxiety and therefore suffer from fewer problems like high blood pressure and strokes. Or maybe it all comes down to what we told you before about kids: It's important for people to remain socially active within their age group in order to be healthy, and going to church gives them the perfect excuse to do that. All of your friends will also be more likely to tell you to get checked out when they notice that huge tumor growing on the side of your head.
"Jim looks bad, you guys. We should probably either call 911 or draw dicks on his face."
Retiring to a Life of Carefree Luxury Is a Death Sentence
For a lot of people reading this right now, the only point of having a job is saving up enough money so that eventually you'll be able to afford not having a job. Maybe you picture yourself retiring in your 50s or earlier and spending the rest of your days chilling on your couch, not worrying about a thing. Unfortunately, doing that can kill you. Apparently, as soon as people decide to stop being useful, so do their bodies.
This means all the cops who got shot a day before retirement didn't miss much.
Studies show that people who retire later in life have better life expectancies than those who retire early. Even discounting the people who retired because of health problems and died soon after, the results still held up. While lounging around and doing nothing probably ensures you won't die from stress-related health problems, there is such a thing as too much rest and relaxation -- without goals or bosses to torment you, your body and mind lull into a stupor and slowly shut themselves down.
"Liver ... off. Ability to give a fuck ... off."
On the other hand, people who stay active and involved in their jobs remain healthier and live longer. In fact, going back to the 90-year-long study we mentioned before, hard workers, even those who worry too much and are prone to stress, usually have longer lifespans than happy-go-lucky types. Even if they didn't end up at their dream job or only kept working later in life out of necessity, they still did better than laid-back people who never took their jobs seriously.
Of course, researchers point out that you don't have to keep going to an office every day to remain active. Other things can keep you focused and working, but given human laziness, very few people will put any real effort into it without a paycheck and a supervisor hovering over their heads.
She'll be riding those stress headaches into the 22nd century.
For more things you can't control, check out 5 Insignificant Things That Determine Who You Have Sex With. Or learn about 5 Reasons Being Single Sucks Even More Than You Thought.
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