Health by numbers is not a fun way to live

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 11:05 PM | comments: 0

When I started taking levothyroxine in 2021, it was certainly a necessary thing that the lab results said I needed. It messed with me at first, making me irritable, always hungry and just not feeling like myself, but my body adjusted, and I noticed how I was less tired. Come to think of it, I don't sleep as well either, but that might be other things.

Those numbers aren't the only thing though, because we're also looking constantly at our weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. When these are out of whack, we're at greater risk for heart disease and other conditions that are not conducive to survival. There's a commonly used calculator about risk for heart disease, and for me it says that my 10-year risk is low, only 2.7%, and lifetime risk is 47%, which is slightly below average from a study I read. Obviously, we can move those needles to some extent depending on how we eat and exercise, but genetics play a big factor as well. My risk was 4.2% a year ago, and that changed mostly because my cholesterol is under control with rosuvastatin.

The areas of concern are still my triglycerides and to a lesser extent my blood pressure. The blood pressure always reads crazy high in the doctor's office, but at home or at Publix, it's pretty routinely around 125/88, which borders between elevated and stage 1 hypertension. It definitely varies on activity and stress. I really don't want to medicate for that. The triglycerides are the real problem, and they've been high for a long time. I remember once they were around 400 in 2006. In the last few years, they've ranged from 350 down to 190, and anything between 150 and 200 is considered "borderline high." High tri's can cause pancreatitis and thickening of your artery walls, and those are bad. The culprit is largely a combination of too many carbs (including alcohol, which I typically limit to a few drinks one night a week) and non-activity. The latter should be pretty easy to fix if I just get out of my chair more by walking and using my standing desk. The carbs are a little harder, because I sure love potatoes and rice and tortillas. Those few fruity rum drinks probably don't help at all. Losing a little weight would like help with the tri's and the blood pressure.

Weight as a proxy to health is also a pretty terrible thing to be constantly worrying about. Even at my physical best, I've been technically "overweight," but the doctor I had in those days suggested that high bone density and muscle (in my legs, at least) probably have more to do with that than anything. I still would probably be healthier 20 pounds lighter, but mostly I look for other warning signs. I remember 20 years ago getting winded going up stairs when I lived in a third floor walk-up. I felt that a little when I moved here, after a crappy winter in Cleveland, and I definitely felt my best when I shed a little weight. What I don't worry about is appearance. I don't mind being a little doughy. I feel like I've earned that.

I spend a lot of time trying to rationalize the numbers. I tell myself that since I don't eat red meat and the numbers aren't that far out of range, that I'm "OK." But as a fan of science and quantifiable data, I know that's bullshit. I do think that the hypothyroidism for sure, and probably the cholesterol, are genetic, likely from my mom's side, so medicating makes sense. But the triglycerides and blood pressure seem like things I could better mitigate by way of behavior. The pandemic at first made activity feel essential, but in the long run, I feel like it just normalized sedentary sluggishness. But also, giving in to more movement (notice I don't call it exercise, which I don't care for) sort of feels like I'm admitting that I do life wrong. The fuckwits selling "fitness products" and spouting motivational poster nonsense don't help.

I go back for another round of labs in a few weeks, and I can't stand the idea of not having better results. I'm already getting into a mode of thinking I will eat less, move more, just to try and game a better score. And the thing is, I am down four or five pounds in the last two months, so something is different. But I don't want to be a servant to numbers. It's exhausting.


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