Last week I had my annual physical and, unlike most people, I actually looked forward to it. I mean, who doesn’t like sitting on a tissue-covered examining table wearing a very large paper towel opened in the back? As fun as that sounds (and it does sound fun), I didn’t always feel that way.
When I went in for my first-ever physical, in 2012, I wasn’t the same tissue-sitting-lovin’, paper-towel-with-holes-wearin’, physical-takin’ aficionado I am today. I knew I wasn’t in perfect health, and I expected the usual from my doctor: lose weight, get more exercise, been there done that, please pass the ketchup. You know, like what doctors say to normal people. Right?
Wrong. Unfortunately for me, I got what can only be described as a punch in the gut. I was well on my way to a heart attack and to becoming a diabetic. Only time would tell which would hit first if I didn’t change my life.
Physicals are funny that way. You think you know everything and then the doctor says you’re probably gonna die soon. I think part of it is timing – you have to be at a point in your life, psychologically, where it isn’t good enough to just “behave” for a few days and then go to iHop to celebrate your miraculous transformation. And no, switching from Pepsi to Sunkist because it has an orange on the can doesn’t work either.
In 2012, I was at a low point in my life. I hated my job. Frequently, I was physically in pain (due to my weight). I was unhappy with myself overall, frankly. Psychologically, I was in the exact place I needed to be for that swift kick in the butt to jolt me out of my rut and spur me to action.
That’s why I look forward to my physicals now. I’d been in a deep, dark hole and that doctor visit was the light that brought me out. These days, I look at physicals as a way to recalibrate my diet and exercise routine. By taking an active, enthusiastic, approach to my doctor visits, I hope to never stray so far again. Because the next time I may not find my way back.
Overall, my numbers are great. Last week, I posted the big news: my doctor took me off my blood pressure meds. I’ve lost enough weight that my blood pressure was getting too low while on the medication. Last year’s physical had me down 45 pounds. This time I was down a total of 110 pounds.
Needless to say, my doctor was a bit giddy. He explained it’s rare for doctors to see such a big turnaround in their patients. I have to agree with that one. Heck, it took me 40+ years and being told I was a prediabetic for it to sink into my head I needed to do something.
The doctor wanted to know how I did it, so I told him my diet and fitness routine. He was very happy with everything and said he wished he could bottle-up my enthusiasm and attitude for other patients.
Now, on to the numbers!
Two years ago, my blood sugar hit 5.8%, officially putting me in the prediabetes category. This is the test that kick-started my weight loss journey. A score between 5.7-6.4 is prediabetes. If you hit 6.5% or greater, you’re a diabetic. Anything below 5.7% is healthy and that’s what I set my sights on.
After 2 years of cutting back on carbs and sugar, I’ve said goodbye to diabetes. Last year my blood sugar level dropped back into the normal range to 5.5%. This time around it’s at an awesome 5.4%.
As my doctor explained the numbers to me, he commented that my weight loss “set the clock back 20 years.” Awesome!
For my first physical, my Vitamin D level was below 10 ng/ml, considered severely deficient. My doctor urged me to take a supplement with “the largest number I can find.” So I began taking my 10000 Vitamin D everyday. He also encouraged me to start daily walks to soak up some sunshine.
The good news is that after a year, my Vitamin D levels jumped to 39 ng/ml – inside the normal range of 30-100. This past year, I cut back on my supplement. I wanted to see if my outdoor workout routine kept me outside enough to keep up or even raise my Vitamin D levels. I ended up at 40 ng/ml, so I pretty much maintained my level.
I think I’ll start taking the supplement again, but at a much lower dosage. While I’m in the normal range, I’m still too close to the bottom for my comfort. I’d be happy with 50-60 ng/ml.
Cholesterol, Triglycerides & Fish Oil – Oh My!
My cholesterol numbers were great, but because my doctor changed the type of testing they do for cholesterol, he couldn’t offer me apples to apples comparison against my earlier physicals. That’s because he did a “particle test.” This gives a more detailed (and accurate!) breakdown of my cholesterol. The key with this test is to determine the size-pattern of my LDL cholesterol (the so-called “bad cholesterol”).
LDL can be small and dense or large and fluffy. The large and fluffy particles are ideal because they zip through your circulatory system, pinging off arteries and veins and laughing themselves silly at all the fun they’re having. They don’t stick to anything, they just float along and out of your system safely. The bulk of my LDL is made up of the large fluffy particles. This was excellent news.
Cholesterol has a lot of myths surrounding it and is much more complicated than how the breathless media usually depicts it (LDL = bad cholesterol; HDL = good cholesterol). I plan to discuss this in a post later this week.
As we talked about my cholesterol numbers, I asked him about fish oil. I’ve taken it off and on, but wondered if it was really helping me. Also, fish oil makes me burp and leaves a fishy taste in my mouth. Not very pleasant. I suppose other fish like it though.
Anyway, according to my doctor, fish oil doesn’t hurt you, but studies are showing no real benefit either, except in one big area: lowering triglycerides. If your triglyceride level is too high, you are looking at serious heart disease problems. Normal triglycerides measure at less than 150 milligrams per deciliter.
My doctor said, “Fish oil won’t hurt you, but you are most definitely someone who doesn’t need it.”
My triglycerides were at 54.