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Chapter 16

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Steve Joordens

CHAPTER 16 Lifestyle Stress and HealthCULTURAL EVOLUTION LIFESTYLE CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCESCultural evolution is a cultures adaptive change to recurrent environmental pressures Unlike biological evolution cultural evolution is driven mainly psychological forces It is a product of human intellect and physical capacity both very genetic As a culture faces new problems solutions are proposed and test and the working solutions are passed down from generation to generation Some solutions are modified to increase effectiveness and others may be abandoned for better solutions It is a primary agent involved in shaping lifestylethe aggregate behaviour of a person or the way they lead their lifeFor our prehistoric ancestors lifestyle was the same for everyone They all had the same motivesto stay alive However nowadays there is no predominate lifestyle culture evolution has provided us with many options and in most Western cultures our lifestyle isnt based on staying alive but rather finding ways to spend time and how to gather more of thatCulture evolution has resulted in a much higher standard of living but at the same time produced threats to our health and safety eg being hit by cars cars creating pollutionLifestyles while providing us with healthy means of survival also provide unhealthy means of survival So why do some of us choose to maintain unhealthy lifestyles This is because although the consequences of unhealthy lifestyle behaviours have obvious negative biological implications the behaviours themselves can be acquired and maintained by both biological and psychological factorsWe cannot argue that genes that give rise to unhealthy lifestyles should eventually become extinct because natural selection operates on traits that affect the ability to reproduce most of which are biological not psychological As well most of the consequences of unhealthy lifestyles eg heart attacks alcoholism do not appear until people are well beyond their reproductive agesThe law of effect CH5 plays a powerful role in cultural evolution It states that behaviours that produce favourable consequences tend to be repeated and those that produce unfavourable consequences then not to be repeated Thus cultural practices and customs that are reinforced tend to be maintained eg exercising resting But then how does the law of effect apply if unhealthy lifestyles have negative consequences This is because many behaviours have reinforcing consequences in the short run and damaging consequences in the long run ie Enjoy now suffer later Teens who smoking may receive physiological and psychological pleasure in the short term but over a long period of time they will witness great lifethreatening effectsHEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY LIFESTLYESA healthy lifestyle is one that enhances an individuals wellbeing and an unhealthy one diminishes itNutritionIn the last 150 years our diets have change and are now considerably higher in fats and lower in fibre Diets too high in saturated fats animal fat and vegetable oils and too low in fibre have been linked with specific health disorders such as coronary heart disease CHD the narrowing of blood vessels that supply nutrients to the heartsand cancera malignant and intrusive tumour that destroys body organs and tissue Heart diseases and strokes are the leading causes of death in developed countriesThe main component of CHD is serum cholesterola chemical that occurs natural in the bloodstream where it serves as a detoxifierCholesterol is also the source of lipid membranes and steroid hormones thus it is a vital substance Cholesterol exists in two major forms HDL highdensity lipoprotein and LDL lowdensity lipoprotein HDL is considered good cholesterol because high levels are inversely proportionally to low CHD whereas LDL is considered bad because its high levels are associated with formations of atherosclerotic plaques which clog arteriesCultures having the highest death rates due to breast cancer are those whose citizens consume relatively large amounts of fats Fig 161Nutrition plays an important role in good health and is pivotal to a healthy lifestyle For example we can decrease our risk for both CHD and cancer by choosing to eat foods that are not only low in fat but also high in fibre which helps reduce LDL levels See Fig 162 for examplesThere are also many foods that are high in fat and low in fibre They may delight the palate in the short term but over the long run they can result in more serious consequences So why do we prefer these highfat foods and sweets In the past those who faced starvation would be best served by eating fat In addition sweet tastes usually indicate that the food is safe not poisonous Therefore the preference for highfat sweet foods were adaptive and have been passed genetically along to usPhysical FitnessMost people today lead more sedentary lives A lack of exercise is correlated with increased risk of CHD People who exercise regularly appear to accumulate less body fat and to be less vulnerable to the negative effects of stress Read the experimentsBecause regular exercise reduces high blood pressure increases lung capacity and decreases the ratio of LDL to HDL it suggests that regular exercise engenders good health Recent research indicates that prolonged exercise activates dopamine an endorphin that helps reduce negative emotions and promote positive onesAerobic exercises are those that expend considerable energy increase blood flow and respiration and thereby stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs and increase the bodys efficiency in using oxygen These exercises increase cardiovascular health A study by Cooper 1985 suggested that running at least 5 km in less than 20 minutes 4 times a week had this benefit Another
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