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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Not to Die

I watch so little television that I was completely unaware of “Dr. G’s” Discovery Health channel program before I began to read How Not to Die. The book’s title, though, caught my eye and, when I read that Jan Garavaglia is a chief medical examiner in Florida who “presides over” some 1,100 autopsies every year, I was hooked. I figured there could be no one more qualified to offer advice on extending one’s life than someone like Garavaglia who is intimately familiar with the unnecessary failings of the human body.

Granted, much of what Garavaglia offers is common sense advice that we have all heard before, but the doctor’s approach of illustrating her points with shared personal and work experiences makes what she has to say memorable - if not entirely new. How Not to Die is divided into chapters on all of the usual suspects when it comes to causes of early death: fear of seeing a doctor, adverse reactions to prescription medicine, auto accidents, medical mistakes, obesity, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, smoking, and general accidents.

Dr. Garavaglia uses a conversational tone, one that her television fans are likely to recognize, to make her points but most chapters also include a summary table or two to restate all the main points. I used the tables both to reinforce Garavaglia’s most important thoughts and to make sure that I had not missed anything in my reading. For example, the book includes a three-page table titled “Don’t Ignore These Symptoms” listing some twenty-three symptoms for which a person should always seek medical attention, a particularly helpful table for men who tend to “tough it out” rather than see a doctor until things become even more serious for them.

Part of the fun in reading a book like How Not to Die comes from the surprising statistics and facts the books often include, and How Not to Die does not disappoint in that regard. Consider these examples:
· Between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die every year from medical errors, more than from car wrecks, AIDS or breast cancer
· Over 65% of all traffic accidents happen at or near intersections
· Heart attacks are the biggest killer of travelers and the attacks usually come during the first two days of a vacation
· Vacations generally extend a person’s life expectancy; men who take frequent vacations are 30% less likely to die of heart disease and women are 50% less likely to do so
· Heart attack victims who also suffer depression are four times more likely to die within six months of their attacks than victims not suffering from depression
How Not to Die is perfect for those needing a little extra motivation to get them started on the kind of lifestyle that will allow them to remain active well into their eighties and beyond. It is all pretty simple, really, and Dr. Garavaglia even makes it sound like fun.

Rated at: 3.5

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