Health Maintenance 101
The picture you see above is of me and my daughter from about ten years ago. That was from a period of time when I was not at my healthiest. I was overweight, my blood pressure was elevated, my cholesterol and triglycerides were high and I was prediabetic. So, for those who have never seen me at my worst weight, yes, I do know the struggle of losing and keeping off undesirable body fat. In that picture, I weighed in at about 240 pounds at a height of only five foot seven inches. I was carrying too much weight, and beginning to feel the affects of it.
How did I get so out of shape?
Well, the obvious answer is I was not only eating too many calories for my daily needs, I was also eating and drinking too many of the wrong foods and drinks. I was in the recovery process following a spinal injury, and was also suffering from depression and PTSD. I wasn’t lazy by any stretch, I was just not taking care of my nutrition, nor my body as I should have. I was consuming massive amounts of calories each day to fuel my training in powerlifting. Although I was physically stronger than ever before in my life, internally, I was a train wreck. I was self medicating my depression with food and drink, and believed I could out exercise my bad diet. The trick was on me, as my health was beginning to suffer.
Not only were my blood pressure high and my blood labs beginning to show bad readings, I also suffered from horrible acid reflux which would wake me up gagging almost nightly. The acid reflux was bad enough that it made my sinuses run constantly like a waterfall down the back of my throat, and I was always coughing as a result of it. The result of not properly maintaining my body was taking a toll on me. I have learned through the school of hard knocks that health maintenance is the key to our well being. If we do not care for our bodies, no one else is going to do it for us.
Health Maintenance is Imperative!
As you can clearly see, there is a big difference in the way I look now compared to the first picture above. I am lean as a result of living a lifestyle centered on healthy nutrition and exercise. I went yesterday and had my annual checkup with my doctor, which includes having my blood labs completed as well. I get checked out as a part of my healthy lifestyle initiative each and every year. This is a part of my health maintenance that is always my first priority in life. We care for our cars, and homes. Our cars get oil changes and tune ups on a regular basis, it only makes sense we do the same for our bodies. When we do not take the time, nor the worry of our health maintenance, we will always find ourselves paying the piper at some point.
We were not meant to sit idly by while feeding our faces and then expecting someone else to fix us at some point. Yet, this is exactly what we do. Humans seem to want to live vicariously in the moment without a care in the world, that is, until we get sick. Sadly, most of what ails us, is entirely preventable through good nutrition and exercise. But life is easier while chilling with Netflix while eating a large bowl of ice cream or your treat of choice.
And, why is it that people will go to the doctor for prescriptions, yet never want to follow their doctors advice to change their habits? I always wonder if it even occurs to some people that their sky high medical expenses could be entirely eliminated if they would only choose to live their lives more wisely. For me, I can honestly say that I always knew better than to live how I was living. The problem was, as many do, I was self medicating my depression and PTSD in the hope of making it all feel better. Fortunately, I had an epiphany one day and decided that I must do what was necessary to repair my health in order to not die young.
It is imperative that people understand that poor nutritional habits are just as dangerous to our health as being a smoker. If you are at a weight to where you can’t move your body without wheezing and getting out of breath, you might as well be smoking since the results to your body are the same. You are out of breath because your body has to work too hard to move around, and your heart is not strong nor healthy enough to do so with ease. Think about this the next time you look at a sack of cookies or a cake.
The ill effect of eating poorly is like those of smoking in that the effects often take years to catch up with us. This is the problem with living only in the moment and not looking into your own future. If you could see yourself in the future morbidly obese and unable to take care of your basic functions of life, would you care better for your body? Or, will you continue on the path you have chosen for yourself?
Health Maintenance Works!
Yesterday at my annual check up with my doctor, my blood pressure was 108/64 with a pulse rate of 66 bpm. My blood pressure when I was heavy averaged about 140/89.
I have weighed 240 pounds with a body fat percentage over 30%. Today at almost 58 years old, I weigh 180 pounds with a body fat percentage of 10%.
I no longer suffer from chronic acid reflux since my belly fat no longer squeezes stomach acid up into my esophagus. Additionally, without the extra belly fat, I can now bend over and tie my shoes without having difficulty in breathing. The weight of the fat on the chest wall decreases the amount of room for the lungs. It also pushes up on the diaphragm, restricting its movement, particularly when bending over or lying down. Carrying around extra weight is work. Excess fat is known to constrict the lungs, which makes it harder to breathe!
Although I still suffer the effects of depression and PTSD, it is not as bad as it used to be. Studies have shown that healthy diets can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies have also found that unhealthy diets have been linked to an increased risk of dementia or stroke. It is a fact that when you stick to a diet of healthy food, you’re setting yourself up for fewer mood fluctuations, an overall happier outlook and an improved ability to focus.
You don’t have to make every healthy change immediately. You may find it easier to take it week by week. The important thing is that you begin doing something for your health maintenance. It may take days or week before you start to feel the mood-boosting effects of a better diet, depending on how many changes you implement. But, it will happen.
The Importance of Knowing Your Blood Lab Numbers
Yesterday, all of the readings from my blood labs were well within the healthy ranges where they should be, except for two of my liver enzymes which were slightly elevated. By catching these slight elevations, I had more testing to rule out disease, or to verify damage to my liver from my days of alcohol consumption. The good thing is, if there is something wrong, it is being caught early.
I also am being routinely screened for colorectal cancer. This type of cancer is the most treatable form there is when caught early enough. The problem is, most people do not want to undergo a colonoscopy to find out their colon health. The good news is, you do not have to do that anymore. Now, you can collect a small stool sample from home, and simply mail it in to a lab for analysis.
I highly recommend that everyone gets routine checkups by their doctor. As with good nutrition, you may feel as if you can’t afford this. To that I say, “you can’t afford not to”. Trust me when I say that medical bills for chronic illness or disease far outweighs what it cost for a little bit of preventive health maintenance. Take care of your body!