What Would a Caveman Do? Part V


I started considering human evolution (or lack thereof) when looking at many of my patient’s illnesses. I also considered human evolution as I made recommendations for treatment and more importantly, for setting expectations. And last but not least, I consider evolution when making recommendations for prevention of illness. What would a caveman do?

I’m an orthopedic surgeon, so I’ll try for the most part to stick to what I know best. That’s always safest. But I think the principles can be applied to all disciplines, and frankly, to much of what ails us in life in general.

And here’s why. Because we’re really put together to last about 25 good years. It’s probably a shock to read that when we’ve all been shooting for a hundred. Or reading about how 60 is the new 50. The truth is that if we were living in a completely natural world humans would last about 25 years on average. Right…but we’re not living in a natural world. So what? So…tell that to your body. It doesn’t know that you’re born in 2010 or 10,000BC. It doesn’t know whether you’re born in the United States or Mozambique.

Up until 1900 the average age of death of women was about 40. Women often died in childbirth. Remember a couple of blogs ago, I said that because of our intelligence we figured out how to birth babies with forceps and C-sections. Someone invented birth control pills. That resulted in a huge improvement in the life expectancy of women and children.

Women were pretty clever, and way before 1940 they had already figured out how to keep from having a string of babies. They relied on old-school routines, like the rhythm method and abstinence! I remember my grandparents slept in twin beds. Those Irish and Mexican Catholics had only two kids each, proving that twin beds work! Do you recall Scarlett O’Hara’s plan for birth control once she realized her waist size had increased following the birth of the unfortunate little Bonnie Blue? She moved into another room and locked the door on poor Rhett Butler! And she didn’t have any more kids!

These early methods of birth control, among other earlier advances in medical care and safety resulted in a gradual increase in life expectancy. I’m going to go through a litany of reasons we live a long time in this unnatural world so you can understand why our bodies wear out just when we least expect it. That way I can help you get prepared for it. Stay tuned.


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