So, why am I busting my butt to make all these lifestyle changes? And why – no really, WHY – do I suddenly have this
obsession with focus on being so active?!?
It all goes back to late June of 2013 and a painful ear. The ear had been rather tender for a day or two, but that day it really hurt. I couldn’t focus on my work through the pain, and I was actually noticing rather reduced hearing in that ear. Deciding that I needed someone with a medical degree to look at it, I wandered down to campus health (ah, a plus side to working at a school) to get checked out. Of course, temperature/pulse/blood pressure/etc. are measured in the triage process. The nurse was rather alarmed at how high my blood pressure was – particularly given my age – so she had me sit quietly for a bit and tried again. Still really high. Then they sent me back into their ER to see a doctor, who took my blood pressure yet again. Then he went on and on about my blood pressure and heart health and how this was really dangerous for a guy in his mid-30s. He actually wouldn’t even talk about my incredibly painful ear until he had a promise from me to get a regular primary physician (couldn’t remember when I’d last had one of those) to address my blood pressure.
So I went back to my office, called a doctor, and set an appointment to see if he’d be willing to be my primary care physician. Because of the heart-related nature of my concerns, they were able to work me in on his calendar within a couple of days. At that appointment they confirmed my BP was still dangerously high, did an EKG, and put me on blood pressure medication. They also scheduled a blood lab to be done to check cholesterol levels and whatnot. By the time those results were in, I’d been on the BP meds for about a week. I’d also started paying much closer attention to my diet and began walking about three miles every other evening to get some exercise. Had a followup with the doc regarding the results, and my BP was looking much better. Aside from my cholesterol being basically double what it should (not surprising given the combination of family history and my own poor eating habits), everything was good. No diabetic concerns or anything else. The doctor said that he’d like to see how my changes in diet and exercise influenced those numbers, and asked that I follow up in 3-6 months to see how I was doing. He felt there was a chance that I could avoid cholesterol meds altogether! He also said that if I could drop 20-40 pounds, there was a good chance I could get off the BP meds as well. That day at his office I weighed in at 260 pounds, the heaviest I’ve ever been.
So I kept eating better and getting more exercise, then scheduled another blood lab in November 2013. While my cholesterol was still high, it was about half way from where it had been to where it should be. My doctor was incredibly happy with this. And he said that my increased levels of good cholesterol indicated that I had been getting much more physical activity. (As it happens, I’d just started running a couple of weeks before that. But that’s for another post.) I once again had instructions to keep doing whatever I was doing, then follow up in another 3-6 months. Had another blood test in early March 2014. Not as drastic a drop in cholesterol levels as before, but still a bit lower. I’d also been somewhat lax in my new-found exercise and diet habits coming off the holidays, which I think influenced those numbers a bit.
I’ve been going in regularly to have my blood pressure checked, and my numbers look great. The nurses are always surprised when they look back to the beginning of my records and see how high it originally was. I’m also currently down 50-55 pounds according to my bathroom scale, depending on the day. I’m still taking the BP meds for now since the doc wanted me to stay with them a bit longer. He said they’re certainly not doing any harm, and he’d be much more comfortable keeping me on them until I get closer to my goal weight. That said, I’m also still not on cholesterol meds yet. So that’s good.
And I think that’s enough of a novel to get us started. Oh, what happened with my ear? Turns out I had scratched it just outside the canal, and the scratch had gotten irritated and had begun to become inflamed. A week or two of antibiotics fixed that right up.