I don't know about you, but I value honesty and freedom. Spending a few days contemplating even a small corner of the morass that is modern Washington politics leaves me feeling grimy. So we'll start on a different and more positive topic today. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that for most sensible, healthy people today:
The best new thing you can do for your long term health is to get out and do more to support medical research
Speak out in online forums. Talk to your friends. Donate time and money patient advocate groups (and aging research advocates like the Methuselah Foundation). Oppose anti-research legislation, and help organizations like the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research in their goals. There is much to do, and the need for many helping hands. See an earlier post here for more details about healthy life extension activism.
Now let's be clear: if you are overweight, seriously ill, damaging your health, or otherwise in bad shape, this doesn't apply. You have more immediate problems to attend to first. You might want to read step 1 of the introduction to healthy life extension and go from there.
As for the rest of us, why activism? Well, your health depends on medical science. Medical science isn't static: you can expect better medicine in the future, but just how much better will it be? How much time do you have before you begin to suffer from an age-related condition that will need treatment? Is that condition even treatable using today's medical technology? When do scientists expect to develop therapies for this condition? Is research being funded?
The speed at which medical technology and capabilities advance ultimately depends on public support, education and awareness. Without this support, funding becomes very hard to come by and progress is slow or nonexistent. Large investments in research - of the sort needed to cure diseases and prevent age-related conditions - only occur when public sentiment is overwhelming. Think of the media and public sentiment surrounding AIDS research, or the war on cancer.
Where does public support for medical research come from? It comes from activism, built brick by brick through the work of activists and advocates. By taking part in raising awareness and avocating medical research, you help to create a positive environment for funding. Funding means faster progress, and faster progress means better, less costly, more widely medical technology. This, in turn, means that you can live a longer life in greater health and comfort.
Exercise, good diet, supplements and a sensible lifestyle are essential to healthy living, but they do not have the potential to improve your future health as greatly as successful activism. None of these activities and strategies can improve medical science: only activism can help to achieve that goal.
Devon Fowler and I talk further about activism for the future of your healthy and longevity at the Longevity Meme.