I’m a big fan of new scientific studies – and helpful household tips, for that matter.
Some hold true for the ages. Others are supplanted by newer, better studies and suggestions.
But I try to keep them all in the old noggin’.
That penchant came in helpful the other day, at my annual physical. I don’t know about your doctor, but mine tells me to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. When I told her I’d read in the Helena Weekly Herald that I shouldn’t over-hydrate, she seemed puzzled.
Now I admit, it was an article from 1868 – but it did say “drinking too much water during the warm weather (was) inconvenient and dangerous.”
And in the cold weather months, I added, it’s best not to overheat the house. It could lead to “pneumonia, pleurisy and pulmonary consumption!” She started to interject, but I told her it came from an ironclad source – the Weekly Missoulian.
Granted, it was an item published in 1873, but still …
The doc was happy I quit smoking nearly 20 years ago. Well, I told her, I had no choice – I didn’t want to go insane!
Again, the puzzled expression.
So I explained, once again, that it was in the paper – one of those scientific reports. In fact, I had a clipping and produced it, straight from the Missoulian, which had reprinted it from the New York Sun:
“The unusually large number of young men who have been committed to the state insane asylum in Michigan in the last year and a half has led to the discovery that almost all of them smoked cigarettes to excess. In many cases, it is said to be absolutely certain that cigarette smoking was the cause of the insanity.”
Now, said I, if that weren’t enough reason to quit, the same article went on to say, “It is also reported that a prominent society young man of Detroit has been made deaf by cigarette smoking.”
I rest my case.
The doc, by now, was seeing a trend and asked, “What year was this?” Why 1887, said I. This induced an eye roll – not a big one – but I’m an observant fella, and I saw it.
The doc returned to the health questionnaire I’d filled out – you know, the one that asks if you feel safe at home, whether you have dizzy spells, and if you ever choked on a bite of charred steak – that sort of thing.
Oh, speaking of charred steak, I can’t tell you how many scientific studies have been done on burned meat over my 70-some years on this planet. One says it’s carcinogenic, another says it’s tasty and fine, so take your pick.
But if I were to choke on that charred steak, I know exactly what to do: “Get upon all fours and cough.” Before she could ask, I volunteered, “1873 … Weekly Missoulian.” I think she emitted a small mouse-like squeak. As I said, I’m an observant fella.
She cleared her throat and asked if I’d experienced any physical or emotional changes in the last year – as if she hadn’t noticed!
Yes, I said, I’m even balder than I used to be, and I’m sporting a beard. Both, I added, have science behind them. I read in the paper that my baldness is worse because of all those years or wearing hats and caps. And, I hear, wearing a fur cap can result in “complete baldness in a single winter.” I showed her the yellowing news clipping.
The beard, I said, is a preventative measure. After all, I deal with musty old newspaper files. I produced the relevant news item, showing her, “The beard about the mouth and nose among men engaged in dusty work catches and holds a vast amount of dust which would otherwise enter and irritate the lungs.”
Finally, she asked if I exercise regularly, to which I responded negatively.
Before she could launch into her exercise-is-good lecture, I produced another clipping which I told her had inspired me. It seems a fellow had traveled “out from Virginia, his native state, to Missoula, about twelve months ago in search of renewed health.”
The paper said he was “suffering at the time from the effects of hard and continued desk work.”
“So that inspired you to start an exercise program?” asked my doc.
Well, I responded, I thought about it. But in the end, I think the guy died. So I’m not sure exercise and fresh air is all that much help.
“You think he died?” she said.
I can’t be sure, I said, but the clipping was dated 1894 – so it’s likely.
Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula broadcaster and history buff. He writes a weekly column for Missoula Current.