Aging Gracefully Depends on When You Start

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off just right.

I just read an article that listed the top ten states with the highest incidence of UV-induced skin cancer in the United States. Sure, that’s just what you wanted to think about first thing on a Tuesday morning. And, having grown up in south Florida where old folks stroll the beach every morning looking like a deflated football with legs, I was pretty certain that state would top the list. I was wrong.

In fact, Florida wasn’t even on the list. That doesn’t mean nobody down there has issues with the sun. But, aside from Georgia, every state on the list was north of Ohio. In case you didn’t pay attention in Geography class, Ohio is right at the bottom of Lake Erie. It snows here. Every year. And even we’re not on the list. It’s all people who live in places closer to the Arctic circle. Why?

I’d love to see some scientific studies on that. Is it because people in the south get accustomed to the sun and their bodies build up a natural resistance? Once they build up a good base tan, they just absorb vitamin D like a teenager absorbs money? I’m joking. Teenagers don’t absorb money. They turn it into sneakers. I bet Houdini would have loved that.

Maybe it’s because people in the south are more aware of the sun’s dangers, so they take more precautions. You know, like wearing full-body bathing suits and only going to the beach on stormy days. Well, if you’ve ever seen any pictures of Fort Lauderdale beach during Spring Break, you know the answer to that one. Burger King doesn’t have that many buns.

Could it be that people in the north are so excited to see a little springtime sun that they rush right out and get that first burn out of the way so they can start tanning? I’ve done that. Okay, I don’t burn on purpose. It just works out that way. But, from all the years living in the south, my skin seems to be a little more tolerant than most lifelong northerners.

Or maybe it’s just that the majority of tanning beds in the United States are north of the Mason-Dixon line. And the further north you go, the more tanning salons you’ll find. Charleston, West Virginia, has one Starbucks, seven McDonalds, and eighteen tanning salons. There are 183 in New York City. Do we see a trend?

But are tanning beds the problem, or is it our attitude of indifference and immunity? “I know, skin cancer is bad. But I’m so special, God would never let it happen to me!” Yeah. I felt the same way about getting fat. Turns out all that unwanted advice about cheeseburgers and Fritos was pretty much on the mark. Funny, I never heard that from a fat person.

If you had told me ten years ago that thinking too much can wear a hole in your skull and you’ll need brain surgery to fix it, I’d have gone straight to Snopes to prove you wrong. Well, in the surgeon’s own words, “It’s just normal pulsations of the brain wearing on the skull.” Now I have a big scar on the right side of my head, yet here I am thinking again. Some people never learn.

Yes, bad things can happen to normal people who aren’t doing anything to hurt anybody else. Just minding their own business and trying to enjoy life on their own terms. Sometimes we can look back and see where things we did may have increased the danger, and other times not. It’s not always predictable, and it’s never fair. It’s just life.

That said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of manure. Or something like that. Why is there so much more melanoma in northern states? I suspect it’s a combination of factors. Regardless, once it strikes, the results can be devastating. And your days of worrying about a tan will be gone forever. Welcome to long sleeves, big hats, and smelling like Coppertone.

When we think of skin care, we think of rich old ladies who refuse to age gracefully. Well, forty years ago, only fuddy-duddies and race car drivers wore seatbelts. Everyone else took their chances with the windshield like a man. Thankfully, most people have come to appreciate staying in their assigned seat. And, as a consequence, most do.

There’s not much humor in today’s message, but some things just aren’t that funny. Aging gracefully is simply a matter of prevention. Whether it’s weight, physical health, mental wellbeing, or skin health, the choices you make today can make a world of difference later. Have fun, but do it right. And don’t be too proud to put on that seatbelt. You may need it sooner than you think.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

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