Staying Alive: Surprising Ways You Can Avoid Life's Deadliest Risks

Friday, 25 Jan 2013 09:21 PM

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We all think we’re sensible folk. We don’t take risks, we play safe, and we don’t expect to be in a life-threatening accident, right? But despite our best efforts accidents DO happen – accidents that could be avoided with a little more foresight.

After examining thousands of bodies on her autopsy slab, leading pathologist Dr. Jan Garavaglia realized four out of five victims shouldn’t have been there. Their deaths were premature or accidental – and avoidable.

So now TV’s Dr. G has written a book – titled “How Not to Die” – that provides useful tips on how to avoid a needless and early demise.

"There are many lessons that can be learned from the dead – lessons that can help us, the living, take better care of ourselves,” says Dr. Garavaglia, the star of "Dr. G: Medical Examiner," which airs on the Discovery channel. 

Here are a few of Dr. G’s tips for a longer and healthier life:

HOW NOT TO DIE IN A CAR ACCIDENT

There are many people who would be alive today had they just worn their seat belts. Seat belts work because they keep drivers and passengers in their vehicles. Never wear a seat belt without the shoulder harness because it puts you in danger of life-threatening internal injuries. Move your seat back as far as possible to allow air bags to offer the best protection and cushioning when they deploy. Keep your windows either closed or rolled down all the way. Windows rolled halfway down can cause the most traumatic injuries if you get violently thrown to the side.

HOW NOT TO DIE ON VACATION

I've seen deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot) kill even the healthiest people. Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent this during long trips. On a plane I get up every half-hour to move and stretch my legs. I do exercises in my seat, like contracting and relaxing my legs. Even while waiting in the airport terminal, it’s important to keep moving your legs to help blood flow. Get up and walk around when you can.

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HOW NOT TO BE KILLED BY YOUR MEDICINE

People often assume that over-the-counter dietary supplements are safe, but many can have harmful side effects in high doses.
When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy or are given medicine in the hospital, double check: Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed?

Know the color and shape of the pills you take regularly. Examine the actual pills.

Check whether your medicine interacts adversely with any foods. Grapefruit juice can increase the blood levels of some drugs, such as sedatives. Calcium in dairy products impairs the absorption of tetracycline and ciprofloxacin, widely used antibiotics.

Unless it’s essential, don’t use any prescription drug within two years of approval. It might not be until the drug has been on the market for a couple of years, and millions of people have used it, that infrequent but serious problems surface.

HOW NOT TO DIE BECAUSE YOU TOOK THE WRONG DRUG

The following medications have similar names, but are used for very different purposes. People have died because of mix-ups between them.
• Adderall for attention deficit disorder. Inderal for high blood pressure.

• Flomax for an enlarged prostate. Fosamax for osteoporosis.

• Lamisil for fungal infections. Lamictal for epilepsy. 

• Hydralazine for high blood pressure. Hydroxyzine for hives and itching.

• Norvasc for high blood pressure. Navane for psychosis. 

• Paxil for depression. Plavix, a blood thinner. 

• Prilosec for acid reflux. Prozac for depression. 

• Serzone for depression. Seroquel for schizophrenia. 

• Zantac for ulcers. Xanax for anxiety. • Zidovudine for AIDS. Zovirax for herpes. 

HOW NOT TO DIE IN THE HOSPITAL

Insist that anyone who has direct contact with you washes their hands, even before they put on protective gloves.

Urinary tract infections are actually the most common type of infection originating in a hospital. But it’s often possible to avoid a catheter and a resultant infection by using a bedpan instead.

When a nurse comes to give you medicine, ask what it is and why you need it. Make sure the nurse checks your ID bracelet against the name on the prescription. Medication errors are common in hospitals.

HOW NOT TO DIE IN A HOME ACCIDENT

Is your address marked outside in large, clear numbers so emergency personnel can find your house quickly? Many people have died waiting as paramedics search to find their home.

Editor’s Note: The full version of this story first appeared in Newsmax magazine. To read more, click here.

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