There are so many things to consider when picking out a place to live. What's the weather like? How good is public transportation? Is that retirement community 420-friendly? But what you really should be concerned about while house hunting are the many hidden health risks attached to different locations, often in unexpected ways. For example ...
Along with getting hit by a drone and someone posting that pic of you shitting your pants on New Year's Eve, getting cancer is one of the major fears of modern life. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to minimize your risk, like eating lots of fruits and vegetable, not smoking, and other boring stuff. But if you really want to do everything in your power to avoid the Big C, you should pack your bags, head east, and not stop until you can see the time zone line.
In 2017, a group of researchers underwent an epic cancer study, looking into a whopping four million diagnoses in 11 states. To be as precise in their analytics as possible, they examined socioeconomic status, which county subjects were from, and even the latitudes they lived at. Surprisingly, it was the latter that revealed something truly odd. People who lived in the western portion of each time zone had the biggest chance of getting cancer -- by as much as 12 percent for some types. Turns out your fourth-grade teacher was right; knowing your time zones is important.
Why exactly is this happening? It's down to your circadian rhythm and the electric light. While we pretend that hundreds of miles of territory are all hit by sunlight at exactly the same time, it can actually differ by, well, slightly under one hour (or up to five if you live in China). This means people on the west side of a time zone technically get up earlier than those on the east, which means they wake up to a lot more darkness outside. This messes with your body's clock, which thinks you should still be sleeping, and researchers are starting to fear this small but constant circadian disruption could cause the body to be more vulnerable to cancer.
And this isn't some weird American statistical anomaly, either. Another study looked at time zones in Russia and found almost the same thing. The more westerly people lived in the time zone, the more likely they were to get breast cancer. That's another weird thing -- only certain cancers adhere to this strange rule, and men and women are affected differently. While both are more likely to get leukemia, women are at greater risk of esophageal, colorectal, lung, breast, and uterine cancer. Meanwhile, men have an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, liver, stomach, and prostate cancer. So on top of everything else, cancer discriminates along both geographical and gender lines.
You'd think living in a lovely suburban area with lots of trees and green grass would be great for your health. While those darn busy city folks are in their little rat race, suburban commandos are living the good life, surrounded by green grass, fresh air, and oh so many white faces. But as it turns out, leading the quiet life in a quaint little suburb will turn you into a chubby, unhealthy mess so fast it'll give you a heart attack.
A study looked at 24 cities in California and the various ways their streets were set up, and it discovered a strange correlation. Taking into account influences like stress, food consumption, and environment, they still discovered a link between the type of street network and how likely residents are to suffer obesity-related illnesses. They found that subjects who lived in a "tree-like" suburb design, whereby each street branches off another with lots of open space, suffered a greater risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Meanwhile, those uppity city types who lived in a grid were ending up all slim and healthy.
And these are not small differences, either. Researchers noted that living in a grid made people 15 percent less likely to be obese, 10 percent chances of lower blood pressure, and a 6 percent reduction in the odds of heart disease. The theory is that the streamlined design of a close-knit grid-based system causes people to walk and bike and (ironically) be more outdoorsy. Meanwhile, living in a byzantine suburban area might motivate people to stay put more and develop unhealthy habits. Once you end up in a cul-de-sac, you're forever stuck in a cul-de-sac.
Everyone has their least favorite part of harsh winters. For some, it's the blistering cold. For others, it's the long stretches of darkness. And for a few, it's knowing that if they'd been born in Mexico, they wouldn't have gotten freaking permanent nerve damage at the age of 12.
While most people think they only have to fear the sniffles and unrelenting bouts of depression in cold countries, the health concerns can be far more dangerous. When one study looked at 22,000 multiple sclerosis patients in 21 countries, they discovered that people who lived in colder climates showed signs of onset MS at a much younger age compared to those who lived in warmer climes. After controlling for things like age, sex, and type of MS (women are three times more likely to get relapsing forms of the disease than men), they stumbled on a terrifyingly simple formula: For every 10 degrees of latitude you were from the equator, you're getting MS 10 months sooner.
So why would you have to move to the equator and not, say, to the inside of a volcano to postpone this terrible neurological condition? It all comes down to sunlight. People who live closer to the equator get more sunlight, which means being exposed to more ultraviolet light. This makes special "suppressor cells" which, according to recent research, could help suppress MS symptoms. And unlike a few degrees of heat, the difference in beneficial UVB radiation can be staggering, with Mexico getting up to 18 times more UVB than Denmark. So if your doctor starts worrying, it might be time to swap in that parka for a Speedo and hit the sun-kissed beaches.
Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds -- though if the Universe really wanted us slim and fit, it wouldn't have invented ice cream and Netflix. Still, achieving a slightly healthier lifestyle isn't the Herculean task us slackers tend to fear. Even a nice brisk walk every now and then can do wonders. Just as long as that walk isn't along the beach, or you'll turn into a whale in no time.
One study looked at 422,603 people and lots of environmental factors that might make you fat. The bad news is that there are so, so many factors. And the worse news is that one of those factors is plain old altitude. Americans who live near sea level somehow manage to get fatter than average. Research shows that a man living less than 500 meters above sea level was 5.1 times more likely to be obese than a man living more than 3,000 meters above sea level. Meanwhile, women were 3.6 times more likely to get fat than their counterparts living among the clouds.
Scientists are flummoxed as to why elevation is causing such high obesity rates in low places. It's not that a lack of mountains to climb or the beach bum lifestyle is to blame, as another study that looked at members of the U.S. Army and Air Force found similar results -- though those Air Force pilots must be as thin as twigs, what with being all the way up there in the clouds.
So what conclusion can we draw from all this? If you want to lose weight, don't stop eating french fries; simply move to Colorado.
Like cerebral sharks, the elderly need their brains to remain active at all times or risk dying a slow and confusing death. So whether it's doing 1,000-piece puzzles, building model ships, or solving crimes in quaint rural villages, the busier the brain, the better. But not every kind of busy is a good thing. Like busy traffic, which can turn your brain to mush.
One of the biggest selling points of a house is easy access to a main road. However, for the elderly, this can prove to be a real killer. One study followed 6.6 million people for a decade, and discovered that 10 percent of dementia deaths could be directly attributed to living about half a football field or less away from a busy road. How? It seems that inhaling emissions can cause brain shrinkage, which contributes to the development of dementia. Bad news if you are a trucker, part of the 80 percent of Americans who live in cities, or anyone who's ever been a couple of feet away from a running car engine.
Mel Stoutsenberger/Adobe Stock
Even more disturbing, scientists looked at the brains of 37 dead people and found that a certain toxic nanoparticle called magnetite that comes from combustion sources (like cars and power plants) had seeped into their brains. And studies have shown that there's a link between the presence of magnetite and Alzheimer's. But it isn't just air pollution that can melt your brain from the inside. Scientists think that noise pollution from being able to hear the traffic might also contribute to their findings. Unfortunately, the only way to reduce these risks to zero is living 200 meters (or about 220 yards) away from a road. So let's all become cave people again and lead short but lucid lives.
And the neighborhood that was always good to you was Mister Rogers'. Check out this final book of his if you haven't already in the past 15 years.
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