The latest cheerful bulletin from heart disease researchers is that low cholesterol can lay you six feet under just as effectively as high cholesterol.
There it was on the front page of the morning paper, complete with a big headline that screamed: "LOW CHOLESTEROL? SAY YOUR PRAYERS, MY FRIEND" or something like that.
Frankly, my hands were shaking so badly I barely made it through the first few paragraphs. There was something about it causing certain cancers, liver disease, lung disease and so on. I didn't want to know.
The fact is, there are so many things that can kill you now that they can't even fit them in the paper anymore.
Red meat can kill you, that's for sure. You like steak? Who doesn't? Eat it and you're a dead man. It's that simple. Mention to your doctor that you like hamburger, he'll look at you like you just confessed to eating your neighbor.
Smoking can kill you. Smoking means . . . well, people don't even want to know you any more if you smoke. Because you're a goner. You might as well pick out a cemetery plot and headstone right now.
Alcohol can kill you. One or two drinks a day, fine. Anything more than that and you're pushing up daisies. On that third drink, you might just keel over right there. In certain bars, no one would notice until last call, when they start running the vacuum cleaner over your corpse.
Sunlight can kill you. The ozone layer is shot to hell. It's about as thick as Kleenex. You spend more than, oh, a minute and a half in the sun, you're history.
Forget sunblock -- I won't go to the beach without a Mylex protective suit. Those people in bikinis, they might as well put toe tags on those people.
Salt can kill you. Sprinkling salt on your food, that's like sprinkling on Liquid Drano. Your blood pressure will soar so high, it might just burst an artery and come shooting out of your forehead like a geyser.
Eggs. Eggs can kill you. Eggs are like the absolute worst thing you can eat. There is a theory going around that claims if you even look at an egg, you'll die. It's very controversial. Some medical institute in Switzerland is conducting all the research. Naturally, the whole thing's very hush-hush.
Bacon. My God, how could I forget bacon? Bacon can kill you. Bacon wraps around your arteries like a . . . like a boa constrictor or something. Then it squeezes the passages shut and that's all she wrote.
I've seen people just . . . well, I've heard of people who eat two strips of bacon and -- CRASH! -- they hit the floor. Ten minutes later they're being wheeled into the operating room.
Saccharin can kill you. They don't even pretend that saccharin won't kill you anymore. On the back of my low-cal sugar substitute, the stuff that comes in the pink packets, it says: "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals."
Terrific. Here they have white mice dropping dead on little treadmills after ingesting two grains of this stuff. Me, I go through six or seven packets a day with my coffee.
They might as well call it Sweet N' Dead. I figure I got six months to live, tops.
Wait a minute. Did I just mention coffee? Coffee can kill you. Yeah, it's back to that. First they said coffee could kill you, then they came out with a new study that said: "Look, somebody added up the wrong figures. There's nothing wrong with coffee. Drink it by the potfull."
Now the stuff might as well come with a skull and crossbones on the label. In fact, what did I just read? A new study says that for every cup you drink, subtract one month of your life, minimum.
Sex. Sex can kill you. Make love to the wrong person and that's it, pal. You're dead. D-E-A-D. And there's no way to tell who the wrong person is. The wrong person doesn't trigger alarm bells, or glow in the dark, or dress like the Grim Reaper.
Hey, walking in the woods can kill you! One of those little deer ticks hitches a ride on your skin? You're talking Lyme disease, buddy. Six months later, you're stretched out on a slab in the morgue. Or you're very sick, anyway. Call me a worry-wart, but I don't think it's worth it. Personally, I haven't gone in the woods since 1962. Kennedy was president.
Here's my favorite: Space junk can kill you, too. Apparently there's a ton of stuff orbiting around up there: old weather satellites, early space probes, etc. Sooner or later, the stuff is going to start falling back to Earth.
In other words, you could be walking along, singing a song, when suddenly -- BOOM! -- the steering mechanism from the Voyager 1 comes hurtling out of the sky and caves in your skull.
That ought to make for a snappy lead in the next day's obituaries.