When I was younger, I treated my body as if I had rented it from Budget, fueling myself with alcohol and anger, grease, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and sodium phosphate. Now that I’m within sniffing distance of my ultimate expiration date, I take my health more seriously. Last week, I went for my annual physical, which I do faithfully every three to five years.
It’s not like I’m in imminent risk of death, which will come as a disappointment to those of you who regularly hate this column. Still, according to the lab report, my “ASCVD Risk” is 6.6%. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what that is so I Googled it and now my score shot up to 7.7%.
If only my savings account had numbers that high. Does Entenmann’s make a statin?
ASCVD is “antherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.” Great, I thought, “erotic” is part of this condition. But apparently a 6.6 ASVD score is not kinky. It means I have a 6.6% chance of a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. Decent odds if you’re betting with DraftKings, but not so great when you’re rolling the bones on your life. “So, Doc,” I asked my MD, “what do I have to do to improve my chances?” And, according to Dr. G., all I have to do is become someone else.
My post-exam briefing highlighted five specific changes I need to make immediately to prolong my life.
1.) “Eat Less Fat!” (I added the exclamation point, but it was implied.) “Eat more fish and fewer fatty cuts of meat,” read the report. Does lean bacon count? I’ll have to consult Web M.D. “Avoid butter, lard and margarine.” No lard?! Kill me now. Medically speaking, my Factory-to-Table diet is a war crime.
Now here’s where it gets really crazy.
2.) “Eat Less Salt.” How? “Keep the shaker off the table and use less high-salt ingredients: i.e. soy sauce, bouillon and garlic salt,” which is particularly bad if you happen to be a vampire with hypertension. “Limit convenience foods such as boxed, canned, or frozen foods, as well as restaurant foods.” You know who eats like this? Squirrels. I’m not a squirrel.
3.) “Eat More Fiber.” This I’m already doing. When The Wife pointed out one of my monthly trips to the bathroom lasts longer than the average California felon spends in prison, I started scarfing bran. Now I’m so full of fiber I could pass an entire Pier One Imports. “Eat oats, beans, lentils and ancient grains,” said the doctor. I have no idea what “ancient grains” are, but we do have a large cache of expired foods in the garage, including a bottle of Worcestershire sauce that went south in 2002.
4.) “Increase Water Intake.” Um, there’s a drought. So, no.
5.) “Get Adequate Exercise.” Which is the usual 10,000 steps hoo-ha we all ignore unless we can count the 9,900 steps we take from the couch to the refrigerator.
5.) “Get Adequate Sleep.” Good luck sleeping when there’s a 6.6% chance you won’t wake up in the morning.
In addition to these five onerous lifestyle changes, I spotted a couple of odd sidebar notations in my chart. For example, Dr. G states, “The patient exhibits no malaise, fatigue, fever or chills,” but this is only because he didn’t examine me while I was watching the evening news. My respiratory system is apparently up to snuff, with no “dyspnea, wheeze, cough or sputum.” And at my age, it’s a badge of honor to be certified sputum-free. Lastly — and I’m sure some of you will want a second opinion on this — my doctor says I exhibit no “delusions,” despite the jibber-jabber I wrote in last week’s column.
So, with a few changes here and there, no stray bullets or space debris landing on my head, you might just have this columnist to kick around a little longer. But please, remember, under HIPPA laws, do not share this column with anyone. This is strictly between me and Doctor G.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.