Intimations of Mortality

I’ve always been as healthy as an ox (some folks would compare my mental capacity to those creatures as well).

Apart from minor bits of mayhem perpetrated on my body by myself and others over the past six decades, the worst illnesses I’ve had were bouts with pneumonia and, on another occasion, a severe strep infection — both more than 25 years ago when I was drinking heavily and dissipating myself with marked abandon. A doctor once remarked, regarding my immune system, that I could probably fight off an infestation of beavers. (I never quite figured out what he meant, or why he chose beavers, but I took it as good news, anyway.)

My lovely spouse has been having trouble getting her blood pressure meds adjusted. Since she was taking her b.p. yesterday morning, and I hadn’t had a checkup in a while, I decided to take my own. Oops! 167/97 — not good. Rested, took it again, still up there. Time to straighten out my act, it seems.

I wasn’t horribly surprised. A majority of people over 60 are hypertensive, and while I’ve been lucky, at 6’ 3″ and 220 lbs. I’m a good 30-35 lbs overweight. It’s easy to ignore, because I’m a big guy and my clothes mostly still fit; on my frame, the extra weight doesn’t show that much. But I don’t get the cardio exercise I used to, although I’m quite active, and I haven’t been watching my sodium intake all that carefully — in short, I’m a typical late-middle-aged guy who got careless. The fickle finger writes, and having writ, moves on. Fortunately, I know how to read the handwriting on the wall, and don’t need to wait for a more intimate conversation.

So what’s my point? Well, first of all, I wanted to write something about this to sort of clarify it in my own mind. Turns out I’m not as upset as I thought I was at first. Just a matter of taking a bit more control of my destiny, as we all have to do. Secondly, it was to remind you that we do need to pay occasional attention to what’s happening inside our personal ecosphere, even thought we may feel just fine.

So, it’s back to getting and staying in shape, and most likely some meds of my own. Maybe I’ll take up martial arts again, or just walk. Whatever. It’s all about getting off my ass and moving. Easy to say, and (I hope) relatively easy to do. We’ll see.

We used to joke, “Ignore your teeth — they’ll go away.” The same is true of hypertension. High blood pressure is a highly treatable problem — although it can’t be cured, per se, once it’s established — but we first have to know it’s there. It’s not called “The Silent Killer” for nothing. Not a death sentence, it’s instead a wake up call. But the volume’s turned down low. We have to pay attention.

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