About two months ago I had my annual physical, a thing I have come to hate mostly because it is a waste of time. The theory behind getting a physical every year is that it may catch some terrible disease you have before it gets to the point where they tell you to get your affairs in order. The belief is that if they catch it early, they have a better chance of curing it. At the extremes this is obviously true, but in the main it is one of the many myths that keeps the system awash in your cash.
This time I learned, to the immense joy of the staff, that my blood pressure was out of whack and my cholesterol was getting high. The reason for the cheering and celebrating was that it meant pills. I would need pills, lots and lots of pills. This is the best of times at a doctor’s office. The average American now takes four different prescription medicines. Humans made it into the 20th century with no pills, but we left the 20th century addicted to them.
Instead of giving my future over to the pharmaceutical companies, I decided to take a hard look at my lifestyle. I have always been someone who has more on the schedule than time permits. This not only means plenty of stress, but it also means I often stay up late getting things done. Lack of proper rest is probably the worst thing you can do to yourself as you get old. Of course, being overly busy means not eating properly and not exercising on a regular basis.
It did not require an intervention to know that I had allowed by schedule to take over my life, so the trip to the doctor was more of an excuse to reorganize things than a “come to Jesus” wake up call. The last year has brought a lot of changes and one of them was seeing the numbers on the scale get bigger every week. The late middle-age life reorganization has been in the back of my mind for a while now, so the trip to the doctor was an excuse to finally get serious about things.
One of the first things I decided to do was cut out alcohol. This is not a big deal as I have often cut out booze to lose weight. For me, losing weight has always meant cutting carbs and beer is nothing but carbs. Even though drinking lowers your blood pressure initially, regular drinking tends to drive up your blood pressure. It can also drive up your cholesterol, which was the other issue from my physical. I need to lose weight anyway, so dropping alcohol was the obvious first move.
Something I never thought about until now was that in the past when I cut beer from the diet was that it was situational. I would stop having a beer with dinner or on weekends, but if I had a social engagement I would go ahead and have a beer. The point was to cut out the calories that come with beer, not cut out the beer. This time the plan was to cut out beer entirely, which meant no beer at social events. I did not realize it, but I was going to be that guy at the party.
That guy, of course, is the person at just about every social event who has to tell people that he is not drinking. This usually happens a few times before his last name turns into “who is not drinking.” I have become that guy. Worse yet, I have had to explain the blood pressure business a million times now. In retrospect, I should have made up a story about how the terms of my parole prohibit drinking. At least people would not feel the need to look like they are interested in the answer.
The other part of the diet and exercise plan is obviously exercise. I used to lift weights regularly and cycle, but nagging injuries got me out of the habit. Before heading back down those roads, I decided to research the topic a bit. I am not a kid anymore and we are awash in aging baby boomers. I assumed that there was a mountain of information on the best exercise for old people. I was surprised to learn that it is pretty much the same stuff they have been peddling for years.
Odder still, the fitness rackets are not aiming at the geezer demographic. This seems like a logical market if you are selling exercise plans or gym memberships. Imagine a gym that caters to old people. You have to be an AARP member to join. That way the old people do not have to see those young and fit people while they are pretending that age is just a number. Maybe there is a local chain working this demo, but it looks like the fitness rackets are still aiming for the young and fit.
I wonder if the issue is not cultural. Marketing fitness to old people means telling them that they are old, and that age is more than a number. Baby boomers are not going to react positively to being told that they are as old as feel. This is one of the consequences of youth culture. Everyone has to lie to themselves about getting old, which means everyone with something to sell to old people lies to old people about the undeniable reality of getting old.
The one exception to this is the weightlifters. There are lots of old guys with YouTube channels talking about their weight training. The reason is this is the one thing you can do until you die. It turns out that strength training is probably the one thing old people can do to hold off father time. The man with the world’s strongest grip is a 73-year-old Norwegian dude named Magnus, of course. Here is a great video of him explaining what he does to remain strong into old age.
None of this matters as the Grim Reaper is undefeated. The best you can hope to do with regards to your health is to take Father time into the late rounds and remain as fit as possible to the end. My clash with the sphygmomanometer was nothing more than a reminder that I have a choice. I can make the best of the time I have, or I can just mark time like a prisoner in an aging body. It also means that life is for living, so have a beer on me over the long holiday weekend.
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