Diane and I are fortunate to have been seeing the same family physician since we moved back to Stockton 35 years ago. And he is a Linden Local: he grew up on a farm just down the road from ours. He is a really good doctor and it is nice to have someone we know and trust to help us navigate through the complexities of health issues. Diane has Medicare and excellent supplemental insurance, but I am too young for that, so I am purchasing health coverage on my own. Thanks to the wonders of the Affordable Care Act, this doctor I like so much no longer takes my insurance, although he does take credit cards. So I am a ‘cash customer’.
I had my annual physical last week, and as we were tidying ourselves up after the last part of the examination (yes, that part) he remarked that I was the healthiest person in his practice of 2000 patients.
That may be a slight exaggeration, but it is true that compared to many people he sees I am unusual. I’m not overweight. My cholesterol profile is very nice and I have no need for any drugs to modify it. My cardiac fitness is off the charts compared to his typical patient, although it is nothing special compared to the typical Stockton Bike Club cyclist. I did a stress test on a treadmill in his office a couple of years ago, when I had better insurance that would pay for it. The test starts easy and gets progressively harder. Most people reach their high heart rate after 10 minutes and stop. I did 23 minutes, and since the doctor is required to be present throughout the test in case someone passes out or has a cardiac arrest, I could see him looking at his watch and fretting about getting a quarter hour off schedule. He told me that was the second longest test he had ever seen. He hasn’t done many SBC riders though.
I have a few health issues of course. I take pills for high blood pressure and low thyroid. I also have a condition/disease that has no effect on how I feel or require any medication to treat, at least so far. But prudence mandates that I have periodic tests, which I have and pay for out of pocket. High deductible, remember?
Overall I feel great and have few health problems. This is largely due to good genetics and dumb luck, but lifestyle choices play a role too. Back in 1999 my weight had risen to 190 lbs. That year I started cycling with the Stockton Bike Club and was slower than almost everybody. I got faster and lost weight: today I hit the scale around 168 lbs. Since I retired I’m on my bike around 500 hours each year, which helps keep my weight and cholesterol counts down. I am no diet fanatic; I eat foods that I like. Put an El Grullense burrito on my plate and I will devour it. But I try to balance that with foods that are very good for me. So far the diet and cycling combination has really lowered my risk of heart disease. My labs include a ratio that is supposed to evaluate risk of heart disease, and if the number is below 2.8 the risk is supposed to be ‘below average’. My ratio is 0.5. That is one test I hope is accurate!
One last tidbit from the lab results. My hematocrit level is 37.8. This is a measure of red blood cells. Normal for a male is 38 to 50, and cheating cyclists use EPO to raise their number up the the UCI limit of 50. So no one can accuse me of not riding clean! Not fast, but legal.