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Dr. Kestner: Do doctors really die earlier than their patients?

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Several years ago there was an audio tape circulating among health food stores. The provocative and captivating title of the tape was “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie.”

If you listened to the tape, you heard a story that proposed that most, if not all, human health challenges, diseases, ailments and early deaths were the result of a single cause. I’ll tell you more about that explanation in a minute. You’ll find that the tape contained a smattering of valid facts and truths amid some exaggerated claims and distortions.

The first interesting bit of misinformation on the tape was a story in which the speaker promoted his cure by attempting to discredit the entire medical profession. He related that he had an unusual hobby of collecting obituaries of medical doctors that appeared in the newspapers of the towns he passed through. As I recall the tape, he asserted medical doctors die at an average age of 58.

The tape went on to talk about the common cause of all manner of human conditions, but I was stopped cold by that assertion about doctors dying at age 58.

The notion that medical doctors were dying years earlier than everyone else seemed absurd. Generally speaking, people who go into medicine are quite bright. One would think that if this statement were even remotely close to being true, someone in the entire field of medicine would have had a light-bulb moment and exclaim, “Hey, wait a minute! Have you guys noticed that all our colleagues seem to be dropping dead at least a decade earlier than our patients?”

Of course the whole notion was a blatant mistruth that was intended to make the listeners distrust medicine. Out of curiosity, I investigated the average age of death of medical doctors. At the time, each edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) printed obituaries of all their members that had passed away during the previous month. I took a whole year’s worth of JAMA, noted the ages at the time of death, did a little math and discovered that the average age at death of physicians was in the 70s … just like everyone else.

The astounding thing that I observed when this tape was making the rounds was that many listeners actually believed it. How could a story that is introduced with such an obvious exaggeration have any credibility? I still don’t understand that. Amazingly, the tape is still circulating.

Another thing that occurred to me as interesting after I confirmed that physicians don’t have shorter life spans than everyone else, is that they don’t live much longer either!

Wouldn’t it seem logical that people most deeply involved with medical procedures and with the greatest access to resources and information would benefit by living significantly longer?

Think about it. A well-educated, typically highly paid person with much greater resources and access to more health care regimens than the average American has basically the same lifespan as their patients with similar education, income and living conditions.

Life expectancy is dependant upon many factors, including diet, lifestyle, heredity, gender, education, race, income, family experiences and where you live. So the best way to improve your odds is to find a hefty income, live in a good neighborhood, find a non-hazardous occupation, avoid accidents and excesses, eat nutritious foods and enjoy moderate exercise. It also helps if you can manage to be born female and pick the longest-lived parents you can find.

The tape was promoting a product called colloidal minerals. The promoter is a veterinarian. He reasoned that since he had found minerals to be so critical to animals’ health, they must be essential to humans as well. It is somewhat of a shame that parts of his message are actually true but this is obscured by the tall tale about the mythical early deaths of doctors.

Minerals are essential for your health and wellbeing. Just as adding fertilizer (minerals) to plants helps them flourish; dietary minerals can help you stay healthier, too. Quality mineral supplements can be a worthy investment in your good health.

Next week, increase your fluids but don’t drink the water.

Dr. Mark Kestner
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Members Opinions:
December 21, 2015 at 2:58pm

My fiance a doctor died at the age of 55
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