10 things I learned from “The Body: A Guide for Occupants“ by Bill Bryson
This book is a fun read. It is a whirlwind of a trivia about your body and sensation. Some of this I was vaguely aware of, like how many bacteria are on your skin. It is a pretty fascinating study and provides a source of wonder about how complex life is, and how we are barely scratching the surface with our understanding.
1. All sensations are created in the brain
This goes for colors, tastes, smells, sights, and so on. The author points out that all these things are just atoms, bouncing around the universe and into your brain. Your brain has no direct sensation of this and puts it all together in a grand hallucination.
2. DNA strands are incredibly long
I forget exactly, but each cell has a lot of DNA in it. If you took all of the DNA out of every single cell and stretched it out, and the author said it would go to Saturn or something like that. Amazing!
3. Speech is extremely complex
It requires a large brain and very coordinated muscles in the mouth and throat to make a variety of sounds: whispering, shouting and singing.
4. Blood pressure changes throughout the day and is also different in different parts of the body at the same time
5. Many medical breakthroughs were created from brutal and extreme experiments
Labotomies were first administered rather carelessly, sometimes without anesthesia. Research on blood pressure and heart issues involved cutting arteries and then seeing what happened next.
Early blood transfusion research included trying sheep blood, wine, milk and other fluids.
6. A teaspoon of blood has 25 billion red blood cells
7. Cartilage is 16 times slicker than ice
8. Asthma is still poorly understood
Sometimes it seems neurological. Children who played outside are less likely to develop asthma.
9. Pain is still poorly understood
Why do we have it? What purpose does it serve?
10. Many early infectious disease researchers died by infecting themselves on purpose
11. Drugs that treat the symptoms of lifestyle diseases remove the incentives to change your lifestyle
These would be drugs to treat heart problems, weight loss and diabetes symptoms. In general if the symptoms go away people are less likely to change their lifestyle to avoid the problems.
12. Americans have the worst health outcomes of any developed country
Americans have terrible diets and higher risk activities than most other countries.
13. Overtreatment and early screening is a problem
Breat cancer screening only saves one additional person in 1000. The prostate cancer screening available today saves very few people and causes side effects such as incontinenece and infertility.
14. Live longer, die slower
People at the end of life are frequently in discomfort and have other ailments. 100 years ago more people died earlier from infection, disease or violence.