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Wake-Up Call

Two years ago this week, I had what I called a Hillel moment and got off the couch. Literally. Matt was out of town, Simon was in bed, and I started assessing my general physical state: blood pressure at 120/78 was  normal but higher than it used to be, cholesterol inching up year-over-year and now a low-high at 202 (bad cholesterol slightly elevated with the good sky high), general feelings of strength and endurance on the decline, and future bone health of definite concern. At the time, I was 41 years and 1 month old. Given my family history, I had every reason to believe that I had 41 more years left to watch my bones rot.

So I got up, put on some ancient work-out clothes, and climbed onto the elliptical trainer in our basement. I kept that up for three weeks or so, then took a giant leap of faith and signed up for a 5K training program, which soon enough turned into a regular running habit. Along the way I added pilates to the mix, cleaned up my diet, and took pilates or running hiatuses only when rehabbing my neck or calves.

But the thing is, until last week, I still assumed I was putting in the work for my vanity in the short run and my health in the long run. After all, I had 30-40 years before I could follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and suffer from poor bones and strokes. Tangible health benefits were strictly academic.

Then my brother Perry, age 48, up and had a heart attack this past Monday. He got treatment right away, he’s recovering nicely, and early signs indicate he should make a full recovery. But the fact remains a person with whom I share quite a bit of DNA suffered a MI before hitting the big five-oh. And just like that–boom!–the stakes got higher and more immediate. I now understand that good habits aren’t just for the benefit of a hypothetical me decades hence. They are very much about the here and now, a situation I find equal parts motivating and terrifying.

Specifically, it’s clearly time to re-check my cholesterol. I know that running and pilates have increased my strength, balance, and endurance. Last I checked, I had beaten and eaten my way to a blood pressure reading of around 102/68 (possibly slightly higher, I was a little dehydrated at the time).  But whereas two weeks ago I was confident that I had also beaten and eaten my way to improved cholesterol, now I’m not so sure. Perry’s was higher than mine, but it followed a very similar ratio of good to bad. As does my brother Steve’s, whose cholesterol runs higher than desired despite running (way more than me), playing hockey, doing yoga, and going on regular bike rides.

Guess who’s calling her doctor first thing Monday morning?

Two more things before I go.

  • Poor Perry. He’s quite irreverent with a good sense of timing. Upon arriving at the hospital and being prepped for his angioplasty and stent insertion, he quipped to the cardiologist that he had just bought a Groupon for a heart attack. I thought that was a pretty good line! The cardiologist didn’t even crack a smile. Later, when Perry asked the cardiac nurse if the cardiologist was always so straight, she replied that “yes, he’s very serious.” “As a heart-attack?” I asked. She looked kind of appalled by my pun, too, but Perry enjoyed it. I guess irreverence, like bad cholesterol, runs in the family.
  • Perry loves salt. I never did much, and I banished most of what I did eat during this summer’s nutrition overhaul. Earlier tonight my sister-in-law called to ask for suggestions about no-salt spice mixes and low-salt solutions for things like salad dressing. Wouldn’t you know it, I had a Penzeys sampler sitting on my counter and a stack of cook-books to sort through with just that purpose in mind. It isn’t often that I find a willing target for my OCD and know-it-all tendencies. How lovely to find an acceptable outlet for my worst tendencies while being of genuine service to someone!


One Response to “Wake-Up Call”

  1. Amanda says:

    OOoh, so sorry about Perry! Poor guy. Realize that the cholesterol may be genetic and diet and exercise may only do so much. I’m working on my blood pressure, but it runs high on both sides of the family so my doc said I may be stuck with it.

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