Health advice leaves me running round in circles…

Health advice is as abundant as it is confusing. A skim of today’s headlines reveals that I am going to die early thanks to bad sleeping and live longer because I play squash. I wonder if one cancels out the other?

If you wish to believe the front page of the Daily Express – well, that’s a slippery slope for a start. Scientific studies have shown that believing the front page of the Daily Express is the first sign of succumbing to a marble-free mind. This study was conducted by me and for me, and wasn’t perhaps scientific in the strictest sense. But the findings still hold.

“DRINK COFFEE TO FIGHT DEMENTIA,” it says today on the front page in big shouty capitals (perhaps Express readers are a little hard of hearing). Three cups a day does the trick, “cutting the risk of Alzheimer’s by more than a quarter, research shows”.

‘Research shows’ is such a useful phrase for newspapers as someone is always researching something or other. Sometimes the findings are important and sometimes they are not. Perhaps you should make yourself a coffee and have a think about this one.

The Express likes the “coffee beats dementia” story, as the review of the papers on the BBC website points out this morning. Three days ago, the tabloid ran a different three more cups of coffee for the road story – and on October 4 it reported that three cups of coffee “can stave off dementia in women”.

Perhaps the editor hasn’t been drinking enough coffee lately. Incidentally, you can tell when the editor of the Express has been drinking too much coffee: that’s when those rabid, anti-Europe, pro-Farage stories break out like a nasty rash (probably got from going abroad – dangerous place, abroad).

In the Guardian, tennis is reported to be the best physical activity to help you “stave off death”, citing a study from the University of Oxford. Andy Murray is pretty much immortal then. The Daily Mail’s headline to the same story says squash is the best activity, while the Times suggests that tennis, swimming and aerobics “are the secrets to a long life”. Meanwhile, the i cautions that the positive impact of running and jogging may have been underestimated. As too perhaps has the impact of running around in circles while trying to follow health advice in the newspapers.

I like coffee and have no wish to succumb to dementia, so perhaps I should believe the Daily Express for once. The only thing is that all that coffee keeps you awake. Which brings us to another survey.

Research firm Rand Europe reckons that sleep-deprived workers are costing the UK economy £40bn a year – and they “face a higher risk of death”. Well, I don’t wish to get all morbid on you, but strictly speaking we all face the same risk of death. Sleepless people may face a greater risk of an early death, but sleeping is not the route to immortality. Because if you’re sleeping you can’t be playing tennis or squash. Or drinking all that coffee as prescribed by the Daily Express.

The BBC reports this finding from Rand and says the “calculation is based on tired employees being less productive or absent from work altogether”.

Bad or interrupted sleep has seen me miss one day’s work. Years ago, I stayed awake all night until 15 minutes before the alarm went off at six. It was a busy day so I went into work. That night wasn’t much better, so two awful nights added up to one day off work, and I still feel guilty about that.

I don’t feel inclined to believe that figure of £40bn as such calculations always appear to have been scribbled on the back of whatever it is people use nowadays instead of a fag packet.

Sleeping badly is a bind and some days are shrouded in a headachy fog, but you get used to it. Apologies about those wasted billions, even though I calculate that my poor slumber has cost the economy approximately £1.53.

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