Health

Things You Do Every Day That'll Seem Crazy in 50 Years

things you do everyday
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Imagine going back in time 50 years, and you find yourself in a very different place health habit-wise: Everyone's puffing on cigarettes in the bar, condoms aren't really an expectation, and breast cancer isn't something to talk about in polite company. It'll be another decade and a half before washing your hands will become an officially recommended good idea.

If times have changed this much, what's health going to look like 50 years into the future? We asked "Medical Futurist" Dr. Bertalan Mesko what commonplace habits or behaviors will seem delightfully antiquated by the time 2067 rolls around.

Eating, moving, or sleeping without tracking it

Or breathing... or banging… In 50 years, Dr. Mesko predicts, "Everyone will measure data about their health because it makes no sense not doing that." Today, we still roll our eyes at the co-worker who spends a meeting standing up because his smartwatch told him his activity level was low, or the friend who takes pictures of all her food using an app that proceeds to conduct a nutritional analysis, or the partner whose sleep cycle graphs have become more interesting than morning sex.

The gadgets and apps out there now aren't yet the norm, but we may all participate soon, tracking our health data and using it to fine-tune our lifestyles. "Not living a healthy life will be ridiculous, as this will become a common social habit," Dr. Mesko explains. "Competitions and gamification will make this more interesting for people."

The next Words with Friends will be a competition of whose blood sugar level was more stable that day, and the next Pokémon GO may involve catching broccoli and carrots.

Going to the doctor for physicals

If you're already getting your blood pressure, cholesterol, white blood cell count, and every other possible bioindicator measured many times a day by tiny medical devices that graph all your health data, would you really need to take the time off work to sit in a waiting room full of sick people, slap down a $25 copay, and hang out with a dude in a white coat for a scarce 10 minutes?

"We will not have to wait for professionals or get large devices to measure any kind of vital sign or health parameter," Dr. Mesko predicts. "From ECG to blood pressure and lab markers, everything will be simple and will take place unnoticed." And when all these bioindicators do show that something's up, Dr. Mesko proposes that your docs will be notified, or you'll be prompted to make an appointment.

Setting alarm clocks

You know those days when you sleep through the first 20 cycles of your alarm clock ringtone, wondering where that music in your dream is coming from? Then you wake up to your roommate banging on the wall or your partner pushing you off the bed?

You may complain about being sleep-deprived, but it's not just that. How you feel waking up actually depends on where you're at in your sleep cycle at the time the dreaded alarm starts to sound.

There are already technologies doing it, but Dr. Mesko believes that using an alarm that tracks your sleep cycles and chimes in at just the right time is going to become ubiquitous.

Passing plates of food around the table

The mundane, eternal question of "What are we having for dinner?" may become a thing of the past. "As we are all genetically different, our diet should be personalized," Dr. Mesko points out.

He predicts that nutrigenomics, a field of study that aims "to understand how nutrition affects our metabolic pathways, and what we can do to get the most out of nutrition in a personalized way," will become more important in nutrition science.

Instead of blithely assuming that the same nutrition advice applies equally to more than 300 million people, doctors and dietitians will tell you that what's good for you personally depends on your own DNA sequence.

If you think that just sounds like a lot of extra cooking, Dr. Mesko says that "those who want to turn to technological solutions instead of spending time with preparing and cooking meals will have a chance to use 3D printers." Today, NASA already has a 3D printer that can provide astronauts with pizza, so why shouldn't you have one in your kitchen half a century from now? Hopefully this works out better than Tang, another NASA-to-kitchen innovation.

Eating too much, too fast, or too fake

In theory, humans should be able to listen to their instincts to determine what food is safe to eat, how much to eat to avoid getting fat, and how quickly to eat to avoid getting sick.

If that sounds a little too basic, consider how miserably Americans fail on all these fronts, stuffing our faces with processed and sugar-laden convenience foods. "It is pretty scary," Dr. Mesko says. "You do not know whether your meal is healthy or even digestible for your stomach."

Increasingly advanced food scanners will let us know what's in our food, both ingredient- and nutrient-wise, vastly improving the current system of food labels, which confuses about 60% of the world population. How are you supposed to eat healthy if you don't know what you're eating?

Popping in regular old contact lenses

A simple hydrogel membrane that rests on the eyeball and improves your vision according to a prescription is simply an underutilization of possibilities. "The age of digital contact lenses… [is] upon us, and they have great potential in transforming health care," Dr. Mesko predicts.

The digital contact of the not-so-far-away future may have some very nifty functions, like automatic focus, night vision, and blink-controlled video recording. Health-wise, they'll be better able to monitor diseases that affect the eye, like glaucoma and diabetes. This is basically helping us reach superhero status. But it's for real -- this stuff is being patented as we speak.

Imagine going back in time 50 years, and you find yourself in a very different place health habit-wise: Everyone's puffing on cigarettes in the bar, condoms aren't really an expectation, breast cancer isn't something to talk about in polite company. It'll be another decade and a half before washing your hands will become an officially recommended good idea.

If times have changed this much, what's health going to look like 50 years into the future? We asked "Medical Futurist" Dr. Bertalan Mesko what commonplace habits or behaviors will seem delightfully antiquated by the time 2067 rolls around.

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Marina Komarovsky is a freelance writer for Thrillist and as a data nerd, she's kind of excited for when this stuff becomes normal. For more on health, follow her tweets @MariKomarovsky.