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Published: Saturday, 7/19/2003

It's a jungle out there

WHY can't the people who set health guidelines make up their minds?

Last year, the experts changed the standards that determine whether a person is diabetic. People who were not diabetic under the old rules could be pre-diabetic under the new ones. That's scary.

Then, just weeks ago, the medical community changed the way it determines blood pressure risk.

It used to be that a blood pressure reading of 130 over 85 was considered pretty good. If your numbers were close to those, the doctor was pleased.

Now, the medical experts say the preferred blood pressure reading is 120 over 80. To make matters worse, folks whose blood pressure met the old standard were suddenly advised they might be “pre-hypertensive.” That's kind of frightening, too.

A new warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is alarming as well. It cautions that one in three children born in 2000 is likely to become diabetic unless people start exercising more and eating right.

The CDC's estimate is three times that of the American Diabetes Association. But both suggest a grim prospect for the future.

One day we hear that wine is good for us, then it isn't. Chocolate is good for you, we're told, but, well, maybe not, too.

Yes, it's a jungle out there, trying to figure out if we're helping or hurting ourselves.

The danger is that people inclined to pay too little attention anyway to good health and eating habits find the conflicting reports confusing and reason enough to abandon the effort.

The nation is out of shape and overweight, and yes, we all have to get off our duffs and exercise more.

It's just that the experts have a tendency to scare some folks into thinking, hey, if life is that short, let's go ahead and scarf down that quart of French vanilla in the freezer.

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