It’s not the height that scares me so much. Because as long as I stay up there, I’m ok and there is no problem. What scares me more is loosing that altitude and plummeting to earth.
Especially during take off and landing. Every move and shake of those flying coffins is a sign for me that I’m done with. Every beep, whether it is preceding an announcement by a flight attendant wishing us a pleasant flight or produced by the microwave warming up our dinners on the flight gives me anxiety. By the way do planes have microwaves? And if not, what the hell do those beeps signal?
I cringe in my seat and only after a couple of whiskey shots am I able to relax. Even a bit of turbulence won’t bother me at that point. But as soon as the landing sets in though, a mild panic creeps up again and I wonder with every tremble whether we are finally going down just minutes before the landing.
If I’m traveling with a companion, he or she is suffering as well and not because they fear flying — actually they usually don’t — no, it is because I will grab their hand and squeeze until they are in agony. I feel sorry for them, but can’t help myself.
Now, I know that the chances of dying in a plane crash are so much smaller than getting killed by a car during our daily participation in traffic. Plane crashes are actually one of the least probable causes of death as far as causes of death go.
That piqued my interest: If air plane crashes are not going to kill me, what will? The National Health Service of England, which provides healthcare for all UK citizens based on their need for healthcare rather than their ability to pay for it, published a diagram that puts causes of death into perspective.
Although these causes may vary from country to country and even between localities, the diagram gives some interesting insights. Going back to transportation accidents (including car and plane crashes), this rates as cause of death number 10!
Drug abuse or murder are even lower on the risk scale, respectively number 11 and 12. Alcohol, infections, medical complications and accidents other than transportation are also not the highest risk factors.
Does this mean that we can throw ourselves in traffic, drunk as hell, and under the influence of drugs as if our lives depend on it? Pun intended. No, of course not. It only means that for the entire population, whether you are a drug user or not, the risk of dying from too much cocaine is not the highest factor. If you are a fervent drug user, the chance of dying as a result of it increases exponentially.
What is most interesting though, is that of all the causes of death, we as individuals are directly in control of how we let the highest risk factors impact our lives. They are: smoking, high blood pressure, obesity (not in all cases a factor that can be controlled), high cholesterol, physical inactivity, and very surprisingly lack of fruits and vegetables.
This is not going to be a lecture in healthy living, but apparently it is more dangerous to participate in traffic than to refrain from eating apples and broccoli. We cannot always control whether we die from infections or murder, but we are fully in charge of our smoking addictions and daily exercise routines.
I do like fruits and vegetables, but I’m not sure if I eat enough of them to escape death by fruitlessness. According to the Fruit and Vegetable Calculator of the Center for Disease Control, I am supposed to eat 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables per day. This equates to, for example: 1 apple, a large banana, 1 medium potato, 6 baby carrots, and 5 broccoli florets.
I’m not so sure if I eat that much fruits and vegetables on average on a daily basis, but I do take a vitamin supplement. Does that count? Probably not, especially after I read somewhere this week that most vitamin supplements are not doing anything for your health and are a waste of money (cannot remember which source though).
I’ll just have to monitor my intake for a while and see if I’m up to par with what the CDC advices me to do. It won’t take away my fear of flying, but perhaps, if during my next flight I focus on my new concern regarding insufficient vitamins and nutrition, it might distract me from the beeps and tremors.
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