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Jennifer Simonson, Dml - Star Tribune

All right — it's time for a New Year's pep talk

  • Article by: Editorial Board
  • Star Tribune
  • December 22, 2013 - 6:24 PM

“If you don’t like the weather … just wait.” You may have been told that Mark Twain made a pithy statement along those lines, which you may have believed until learning, perhaps at this very moment, that the likely source text was a bit longer.

The general idea is pertinent nonetheless. To wit:

You may have thought it necessary to keep your total cholesterol reading under 200 — with drugs if it comes to that. Or to maintain a blood pressure below 140 over 90, also pharmacologically if good habits aren’t doing the trick. You may have felt it wise to take vitamins. Or considered the state’s health care exchange to be uncommonly creditable. Or believed that the federal government meant what it said about spying.

All of these assumptions have now been challenged. For better or worse, the sky is always changing.

Regarding the medical recommendations, released in various reports during recent weeks, the chief question is what we put into our bodies (and when) in order to treat and prevent disease. In the case of cholesterol, this could mean that more people are prescribed statins, even if the trigger is no longer a lab count alone. In the case of hypertension, it could mean that doctors wait longer to prescribe medication as blood pressure rises. In the case of nutritional supplements, it could mean stopping altogether — new studies reiterate that Americans spend $28 billion a year on the stuff and generally receive no benefit. (All right, we’re probably not going to scrap them.)

There’s pushback on these conclusions. Some of it is from medical professionals who are concerned about methodology; some is from people in the industry who likely believe in both their products and profits. Science and commerce are messy that way.

Regarding governance, an ongoing list of bobbles and betrayals is shaking faith in institutions. Nationally, this often involves an enigmatic acronym: the ACA, the NSA. Here in Minnesota, the hot spots have been more foundational: the orchestra, the church. It seems like it’s been an awful year, and it has. A lot of years are like that.

Those of us with a dog in the house know that the critters often appear to be dozing, in apparent confidence that no harm will come and a meal will soon materialize. But lift a finger or raise an eyebrow, and they’ll snap to attention. They tend to keep one eye watching under a policy of “trust but verify.”

So much of what we deal with in our personal and public lives depends on that same hopeful vigilance. It’s easy to be a cynic, but it’s not a citizen’s best role.

So, as 2013 nears a close, this is our advice to you: Keep the faith, despite it all. At the same time, keep an eye on everything. Make this one of your New Year’s resolutions, along with an old standard that will serve you as well as any wonder drug:

Eat right and exercise.

Onward now.

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