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Natural Disasters and Your Health

Let me start by saying I'm compassionate towards those that have been in harms way by Hurricane Dorian or any other severe natural/weather event. I have family/friends (and personally have been in the past) that have been effected by these type events.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I see a correlation between our reaction to these events and the way we approach our health in our daily life.

Homes are built in these beautiful environments - islands and coastal towns - knowing full well the dangers of storms, volcanoes, or earthquakes. They are enjoyed for the many days a year where the scenery and weather are breathtaking.

When the storm forms, it is seen in the distance and preparations begin. Rations are gathered and windows boarded up. Decisions are made to evacuate or attempt to ride it out. Constant surveillance of the storm's progress leads to additional stress and anxiety.

As the storm finally hits, concern for the past lifestyle reaches a crescendo. "Will it ever be the same again" becomes a common sentiment. Depending on the severity of the storm and the level of preparedness there are often two outcomes.

First is total devastation - news worthy cries for help as normal life has been forever disrupted. Second is the close call - minor damage but with a little time, normal life resumes without much effort. Time for another decision, this time with long term repercussions. Rebuild to try and reclaim the previous lifestyle or move to a less risky location that requires a lifestyle overhaul.

Volcanoes and earthquakes are a little different in that they are always seen but rarely heard. The storm is short lived but it is seen coming for sometimes days. The volcano and fault lines that trigger earthquakes are there all the time. Pressure builds beneath the surface but is typically disregarded due to the lack of visible activity. There is little warning for when they will become active, but the devastation can be much the same as what a storm brings.

How these natural/weather events are approached is similar to how the average person approaches health. The Standard American Diet is the volcano or fault line of the American daily life. No one can deny that the knowledge is available about the dangers of processed foods, fried foods, processed sugar, etc. but yet the average person continues to live on a poor nutritional diet because the volcano has not erupted yet and the ground has not shaken enough to be felt. The strength and severity of these events will not be known until they are triggered.

One day they hit. A trip to the emergency room reveals total devastation or a close call. Minutes, hours, or days later the decision is made regarding the lifestyle of the future. Will healthy changes be made or will the future risk be ignored by a continuation of unhealthy habits.

Chronic disease (typically a result of poor nutrition) is the storm seen coming from a distance. Tests have been done to screen for severity. In some cases, such as heart disease, preventative medical procedures can be done (stents, bypass surgery, etc.) Which often is simply boarding up the windows in hopes to limit the overall damage.

These health storms come in seasons. Sometimes multiple storms hit in quick succession. Some are more severe than others. Some seem to skirt by while others hit with full rage. Some bring other types of storms with them such as when a hurricane brings along tornadoes.

Living in the historical path of storms, in the shadow of a volcano, or near a fault line is living with a higher risk than people not living in those areas. Just as consuming the Standard American Diet adds considerable risk to one's health. Sure it can have a temporary enjoyment - beautiful sunsets can give off the same dopamine fix as an loaded ice cream sundae.

But there is considerable risk beyond the's only a matter of time before it hits.

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