04 November 2008

Give Me Vegetables or Give Me Death (Literally)

First, as a former teacher of freshman composition, I should note that the title of this post is not entirely original.

Second, I should note that I was going to blog about the election, and after about 20 seconds of effort, I realized that:
a.) too many people will be doing that tonight, and I should not lay a further burden upon the Inter-nets with my woefully unskilled political comments,
b.) no amount of ranting on my part would cause a substantial change in the outcome, except to drive my blood pressure higher, thus creating more health problems for President-elect Obama to deal with, and
c.) I don't actually care about the election, because, in retrospect, it was merely a matter of whether our once-great nation would be driven to its inevitable perdition in a red hearse or a blue one.

Nevertheless, I still felt like writing, so I decided to write on the thing I have been pondering for the past several days: my own mortality. And believe me, there is nothing like a physical examination to make one ponder one's own mortality.

Why, you may ask, was I taking a physical exam in the first place? Simple: it was free, and I am much, much too cheap to turn down any (potentially) valuable thing that is offered for free. Which I am sure is why my place of employment offers free physical exams -- to get cheapskates like me to come in so they can identify my defects and cure them using the wonders of Medical Science.

The first thing that made me consider my mortality was the doctor's ginger examination of certain reproductive organs that may or may not have been in my possession. She informed me that such examinations should be occurring at LEAST monthly in order to detect testicular cancer in its early stages. Naturally, I was worried. I had never performed such an examination before, and neither had anyone else -- what if the cancer had come, gone, and dried up all my future generations, unbeknownst to me?

And then there was my weight. The doctor informed me that this was my "biggest challenge." (She did not seem to be intending the pun.) As if I didn't know that? Hello, I administer life insurance policies. If I couldn't find my way around a standard mortality table, I think I would die of embarrassment (which, incidentally, is only a figure of speech; embarrassment does not substantially increase mortality rates as defined in the industry's standard tables. More discussion of mortality tables might follow in a later post).

But the real blow came this morning. I arrived at my cubicle, steaming mug of tea in my hand, and noticed a manila inter-office envelope sitting on my chair. Upon opening it, I saw a sheet with the following notations:

Blood Test -- Lipids
Triglycerides: 167 (Normal 0-149)
Total Cholesterol: 243 (Normal <200)
HDL (Good) Cholesterol: 40 (Normal 40-90)
LDL (Bad) Cholesterol: 170 (Normal 0-99)

As an over-achiever, I was not especially surprised to find that my scores on this test were generally well above average. Which is not to say that I was pleased with the results.

Along with these test results, my doctor had very thoughtfully included a stack of guilt-inducing brochures with titles like "Watching Your Cholesterol," "What's Your 'Desirable Weight'?", "Angioplasty 101," and "Heart Healthy Guide." I have always been a sucker for free brochures, so I read through Hope Health's very interesting "Watching Your Cholesterol" on my morning break.

I was delighted to learn within the very first paragraph that "You can't live without cholesterol." So far, so good, I thought.

"What was that?" my cube-neighbor asked.

"Nothing," I replied, resolving not to think out loud next time.

Alas, then came the bad news: "But you only need a little cholesterol." Dang.

"Your liver makes most of what your body needs." Double dang.

"Extra cholesterol has to go somewhere, so it gets dropped off in your arteries. ... The buildup of cholesterol in arteries is called plaque (plack). Over time, the plaque buildup can narrow and even block the arteries. This leads to heart disease and heart attack." OK, we are past "dang" now.

At this point, it should be noted that the above referenced plaque (plack) is not actually the same as the plaque (plack) that is removed from one's teeth during free semi-annual dental checkups.

It should also be noted that I am not sure why the writers of the brochure felt the need to add a pronunciation guide for plaque (plack), but I must say I am beginning to be rather fond of it.

Further, it should be noted that the word plaque (plack) also kind of looks like the word plague (plaig) if you sort of squint, but the pronunciation guides are completely different, so they are clearly distinct words.

"Why do you keep muttering 'plack'?" asked my nosy cube-neighbor. "And did you just switch to 'plaig'?"

"I think you're imagining things," I responded. "Get back to work."

And that, dear reader, is why I am on the cusp of becoming a vegetarian (hence the title of this post). Not so much because I am worried that I will die from high cholesterol (although the inexorable mortality tables would indicate that such an occurrence is likely), but because
1.) My wifey loves me and does not want a prematurely dead husband on her hands,
2.) I really should take care of this magnificent piece of biological machinery with which my Maker has endowed me, and
3.) Honestly, who really wants plaque (plack) to build up in his arteries?

Of course, I will be doing other things to lower my cholesterol as well. Exercising, for instance. Unfortunately, according to the height-weight chart my doctor enclosed in my packet, I am very close to morbidly obese. Thus, I was not sure whether I should go straight to something as strenuous as jogging for 30 minutes every day, or if I should work up to it gradually.

As I was browsing resources from the National Institutes of Health Weight-Control Information Network, I ran across the answer: Dancing. The perfect exercise for people who can't... stand up for long periods of time?! Really?! Yes, really:
You can dance in a health club, in a nightclub, or at home. To dance at home, just move your body to some lively music!

Dancing on your feet is a weight-bearing activity. Dancing while seated lets you move your arms and legs to music while taking the weight off your feet. This may be a good choice if you cannot stand on your feet for a long time.
So I guess I have found the solutions to my recently increased awareness of my mortality: Vegetarianism and Dancing While Seated. If nothing else, they should at least help to amuse me as I attempt to further delay my inevitable Shuffle Off of This Mortal Coil.


Rachel said...

Too bad I'm bringing meatballs over tonight. Dag.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so a) that height/weight chart? I'm guessing it was a BMI chart, right? If so, it's kinda bunk. That's not to say that, given your cholesterol numbers, there's nothing to worry about, but the BMI chart was developed as a statistical measure, NOT as a diagnostic tool.

b) I hear garlic is a good way to naturally lower cholesterol. Plus it's made of deliciousness.

c) Oatmeal, too, though oatmeal is, alas, not made of deliciousness.

d) I have at least three veggievore cookbooks if you wanna borrow any of them. I also have my eye on a veggie slow-cooker cookbook -- since it's getting to be slow-cooker season -- and I can let you know how that goes.

e) Given that I'm a Dixie-Chicks-loving progressive hippy girl, you can probably guess how I feel about Toby Keith. That said, though, I discovered today while working at the scanning station behind the secretary's desk that his music is great for desk-dancing. ;)

MagenRanae said...

Hehehe...Liz, you crack me up!

Unknown said...

dear sir. you good man. plz to do teh needful and become better man. you are on path well on way. Kthxbai