We all want to live longer and lead healthier lives, but there’s considerable disagreement about how to actually achieve this feat. If you follow popular trends, there’s always some kind of new diet fad going around. Your guess is as good as mine whether any of it will actually help you live longer.
To some extent, having more money can actually solve the longevity problem. Data has long been available in the U.S. that showed affluent cities tend to have residents with longer life expectancies than those in poor cities. Presumably, having access to greater wealth provides for better healthcare and thus a longer life span.
Now, the CDC recently published new data down to the neighborhood level as part of the USALEEP study, and suddenly the longevity story has gotten a whole lot more varied. Now we can see that even in affluent cities, life expectancy can vary 5 to 20 years depending upon the neighborhood in which you live. Income (while an important factor) probably isn’t quite as important as previously thought. You can look up your own neighborhood here to see how it ranks.
With this data it becomes so much easier to prove that leading an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise and access to healthy food makes a huge difference in longevity.
I’ve long theorized that members of the FIRE community will end-up living longer and healthier lives — mainly because we have additional time for exercise (keeping obesity and heart disease levels low), community, and eating healthy home-cooked meals.
It’s fantastic news that this new data set largely seems to support this theory, and it’s also given me a new tool in my search for a new home.
That said, there are some things that money, medical technology, and a healthy lifestyle can’t fix. Death and taxes are the usual suspects, but migraines are my particular nemesis.
Migraines Are My Nemesis
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve gotten regular migraines. I’m not talking about simple headache here — I’m talking about incredibly debilitating headaches that last for days. Sometimes up to a week. I can barely do anything when I have one of these headaches, which causes considerable frustration for family members and co-workers (back when I had co-workers).
Something like 15% of the world population gets migraines, so I’m definitely not alone. That’s over a billion people! My problem is that the most common treatments don’t work. Most pain killers are pretty ineffective at this point, providing very little in the way of pain relief. Sumatriptan (a common prescription medication) is only partially effective. Of course, those medications only work when I can hold down food or water. If the migraine is bad enough, I just end up vomiting the contents of my stomach.
(Sorry if that’s TMI)
It’s frustrating, but the doctors can do very little about it. I’ve had MRI’s, tried various preventative medications like topiramate, made diet changes, etc … and none of it really helped my migraines.
But what about financial independence?
The Bad News
Most doctors, when trying to diagnose migraines issues try to understand what triggers migraines for the individual. In my particular case, “work stress” was a likely trigger that all the doctors pointed to. Reportedly, psychological stress is a trigger in something like 60% of migraines.
So it was with great glee when I left my full time job. I’d reached financial independence, which meant no more stress! My assumption was that without the work stress I’d be free of these debilitating headaches.
That was the theory at any rate. The bad news is, after three years of financial independence I can definitely confirm that my migraines did not go away.
So much for that grand theory.
The Good News For FI Seekers
For the folks seeking financial independence that also happen to suffer with migraines, I do have a little bit of good news — they seem to be less frequent and more controllable now. At least for me anyway.
As I write this, I’m on the tail end of a 3-day migraine. Rather than a 5 or 6 day killer where I’m wretching my guts out into a toilet, this one was relatively mild. It started on Sunday night, and Monday was actually the worst day.
Part of why I believe my migraines are more controllable now is the freedom that my schedule allows. On Monday, after walking my son to kindergarten, I walked home and covered my head with a blanket (total darkness helps) and I just rested.
Rather than forcing myself to do something useful (like working on projects, blogging, etc), I just laid around all day and focused on relaxing. Mrs. Tako was kind enough to cook dinner too. This chill-out time seems to have worked, because I’m feeling quite a bit better today. I can at least write this blog post.
This is another one of the great benefits of financial independence. If I still needed to go to a job, I never would have felt better this quickly. Instead of just chilling out, I would have forced myself to go to work or maybe tried to work from home. More stress never helps, and trying to working with a migraine is a terrible way to work, let me tell you.
The other bit of good news is that the frequency of my migraines seems to be reduced. Significantly reduced. Rather than having 2 to 4 migraines per month, I’m down to about 1 migraine per month. It’s hard to say why this happened — maybe less stress, more exercise, or perhaps a dietary change.
Whatever the reason, I’m very happy the frequency is reduced. Some improvement is better than no improvement.
Whether you suffer from migraines or not, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me there’s significant health benefits to reaching financial independence — as long as the individual is able to maintain a healthy active lifestyle.
It goes without saying that there will always be issues medical science can’t yet solve, and those same issues aren’t going to be magically solved by living a FI lifestyle. All the money in the world can’t fix ’em.
That said, good food, plenty of exercise, and very low stress levels might go a long ways toward helping with whatever issues plague you. At least it did in my case.
For me, I know that my chronic migraines will likely plague me for the rest of my life, but I’m very thankful for the improvements financial independence has brought to the table. It’s not perfect health, but improvement is a good thing.
Thanks FI! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a headache to nurse.