My father died of his third heart attack at the age of 47. His brother had the first of several heart attacks at age 50. For a long time now, I’ve known that I’m going to have to run a little harder from The Reaper than most. If there’s one thing you can’t deny, it’s your DNA.
I’ve always worked hard to maintain a decent weight and I’ve been running regularly all my adult life. But since I turned forty, I’ve noticed the pounds creeping up and last winter after an extended bout of bronchitis and inactivity, things really got out of hand. A visit to my doctor last February was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My weight was up to 202 lbs and my total cholesterol over 200 mg/dL for the first time in my life.
I changed the way I ate and increased my running mileage, producing a nice drop back down to 163 lbs, well within my ideal weight range. Last week, I went back to my doctor for another physical. He just about dropped his stethoscope when he saw my weight loss and measured my blood pressure at 114/78, not to mention my pulse of 56 bpm. I eagerly awaited my lab results. Last night, my doctor called me with the verdict:
Total cholesterol: 175 mg/dL (desirable less than 200)
LDL cholesterol (the “bad kind”): 101 mg/dL (optimal 100 or less)
HDL cholesterol (the “good kind”): 62 mg/dL (optimal 60 or above)
Triglycerides: 59 mg/dL (optimal 150 or below)
Needless to say, I was thrilled. According to the American Heart Association risk calculator, my risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years is less than 1%.
This stuff isn’t just for forty-something fogies like me. For all you readers out there in your twenties and thirties who are busy raising kids and/or building your careers, a word of advice: don’t let yourself go. You’re laying the foundation now for the kind of health that you will have in your last decades of life. It’s never too early to start going for an annual physical and reducing your risk.
I know I can’t run from The Reaper forever, but if I have anything to say about it, I plan to go into double OT and, God willing, hold at least one great-grandchild in my arms.
Oh, and one more thing: be sure to give your eyes a 5-minute break looking at distant objects for every 30 minutes you spend staring at your computer screen.
Just had to throw that one in there.