I hate travelling by plane. Lewis Black describes a lot of the aspects I don't like - generally speaking it makes me feel really bad and sick. My Eustachi tubes are very tight which does not help matters when it comes to pressure balance
Obviously, nature did not plan for us to fly or to dwell at altitudes this high. I'm curious: Are there any long-term studies our there, any connections between flying and disease? Frequent flying? Not to mention the jetlag issues and the resulting sleep/insomnia problems.
I don't have any knowledge of studies, but I'm going to hazard a guess that there aren't many. Cabins are pressurized quite smoothly these days, so the only way our bodies "notice" being in flight is during these pressure adjustments. From a bit of internet perusing, it seems as though pressures inside planes rise to several thousand feet above sea level (while the plane is at cruising altitude, usually around 30000 feet).
That said, there are a lot of studies conducted about high altitude living and high altitude sickness, if you want to dig into those. Here's one, for an example:
Many humans live at at least 7000 feet, such as those on the Himalayan plateau, and I believe that they are quite well adjusted (though the above article doesn't really address this). There may be some long term evolutionary adjustments out there, but there are certainly short term adjustments that work quite well, too. Our blood vessels expand and contract when we severely change pressures, for one, and our hearts have to pump a tiny bit harder to get the more limited oxygen where it needs to go in our bodies. BUT the limited oxygen is a feature of our atmosphere, whereas oxygen levels are held steady on airplanes, so this shouldn't be a part of any problem with flying. People who suffer migraines or other blood-vessel related maladies may suffer from super-frequent flying. But, again, I'd guess that changing to an altitude pressure of 7000 feet now and again, especially with adequate oxygen--isn't normally harmful at all.
I would bet that the greatest harm from flying comes from, as you mentioned, the whole jetlag/insomnia deal, which has been studied a lot. Wikipedia has a good introduction to jetlag: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jetlag
You're crazy for taking the bus by Johnathan Richman
Well, a welfare gal and her drunk galoot And no one wearing a three piece suit You meet folks this way you just don't see while flyin So you take the plane but i'll take the bus this time
Well, welfare gal and her drunkin cuss And pepsi cans rolling around the bus That newspaper's a grit and you've got slime So you take the plane but i'll take the bus this time
Where it's salt lake city everybody off Salt lake city everybody off With elko welles and reno down the line So you take the plane but i'll take the bus this time But jonathan...
You're crazy for taking the bus Well, i'm crazy, so what's the fuss Two whole days on that stinking bus Yes and i sleep fine So you take the plane, i'll take the bus this time. Go donnie, tell 'em.
Look at it this way... They don't want my name, and i don't want their baggage claim My guitar is seated right where i am So you take the plane but i'll take the bus this time
Well you got the old fat guy in his old tank top The wendover casino stop And then of course winnemucca and welles and anaheim So you take the plane and i'll take the bus this time.
And it's salt lake city everybody off Salt lake city everybody off With elko welles and reno down the line So you take the plane, i'll take the bus this time But jonathan...
You're crazy for taking the bus Well, i'm crazy, so what's the fuss Two whole days on that stinking bus Yeah and i sleep fine So you take the plane but i'll take the bus this time.
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