With age comes wisdom, or so they say, and throughout history people have sought ways to up their IQ in regard to health. We're constantly looking for new cures, tonics, diets, exercise regimens and anything else that might help us live long, healthy lives.
Healthy today doesn't exactly mean the same thing to us that it did to our moms' generation. In fact, looking back, some of the things our moms thought were safe we now know to be decidedly unhealthy or, worse, downright dangerous.
Our mothers always had our best interests at heart, naturally. Thanks to new and emerging technology, we can simply see more of the big picture than they could through the scope of science back then. Twenty years from now, my daughter may very well be writing this same article about the modern generation of moms we comprise.
Having said that, here are some of the ways "healthy" has morphed since our moms' heyday.
Lobotomies — a medical procedure by which doctors would purposely damage brain tissue to treat mental illnesses — are so insane it almost seems like they are something seen only in grainy old horror films about haunted sanitariums. But they were very real, and while these procedures date back to the late 1880s with Swiss physician Gottlieb Burkhardt, they were considered a viable medical treatment until the mid-1950s.
Wild, right? It is estimated that around 50,000 lobotomies were performed in the U.S. alone. It should be noted that this number doesn't include the many patients who died as a result of the operation — the mortality rate during the 1940s was 5 percent. Other tragic outcomes included patients with permanent, disabling brain damage. Some patients went on to commit suicide.
When I was growing up, it was not uncommon for adults to smoke. While my mom was not a smoker, most of my friends' parents were, as well as many of my aunts and uncles. There wasn't a stigma surrounding smoking at the time. In fact, it was marketed as "chic" and "cool" to light up. They knew smoking wasn't exactly healthy, but they had no idea just how bad it really was.
Suffice it to say, the info they were missing is now readily available. We now know that cigarette smoking harms nearly every single organ of the body and causes 480,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
Red meat used to be the meat meals were built around. Who doesn't love a good steak dinner or a juicy burger, right? Over time, however, much has been made of the effect of consuming red meat on human health. Because red meat is not uniform, various factors, such as fat content and processing, can affect just how healthy (or unhealthy) it is. What's more, numerous studies have linked red meat to a higher mortality rate, largely because it can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high cholesterol — not to mention red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Again, this is one of those things that kind of boggles the brain now, but the science and technology simply weren't there yet. Old ads for DDT literally carried the slogan "DDT is good for me!" and were chock-full of supposedly beneficial reasons for the use of DDT — including as an indoor pesticide to help "make healthier, more comfortable homes" and as an outdoor pesticide good for creating bigger and juicier fruit and more plentiful row crops, to boot.
In 2001, however, the use of DDT was banned agriculturally worldwide by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. DDT has since been linked to concerns ranging from declines in the nation's bald eagle population to increased risk in humans for breast and other cancers as well as developmental delays in children.
If you're anything like me, you grew up hearing the old adage "starve a fever, feed a cold" about a million times. It was, quite possibly, the maxim that defined my childhood. Our moms can't be faulted for passing this one along, as it was passed down by their parents before them — the saying has been traced all the way back to a 1574 dictionary by John Withals. The logic was that eating food would cause the body to generate warmth when you have a cold, and thus not eating when you have a fever would produce an opposite cooling effect.
Sorry, Mom, but recent medical science says this old maxim is misguided, at best. While the body doesn't need a ton of food when you have a cold, eating does provide energy, and energy helps the body fight illness. Similarly, when you have a fever, your body actually burns more calories (increased temperature leads to increased metabolism). Therefore it needs more fuel for fighting off illness. So, basically, the adage should be amended to say, "feed a fever, feed a cold."
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