Last August 19. That’s when everything changed.
At the time, I was working out fairly regularly, but my routine was primarily moderate weight training (machines and dumbbells), with some floor exercises and a weekly volleyball league thrown in. I was also eating pretty much anything and any amount I wanted. I knew I had put on some pounds, but I would have said that overall I was in pretty good shape–maybe near the cut between the top and middle third of people my age.
Then my employer offered a discount on health insurance premiums to all staff who participated in a free health screening, with completely confidential results, and I signed up to save a few bucks.
For context, I should mention that on my way back to the office after my screening that afternoon I planned to stop for a particularly unhealthy but amazingly sybaritic fast food lunch that, even in my most self-indulgent days, I only allowed myself a few times a year.
I never had that meal.
As part of the screening, I was quizzed, weighed, measured, and finger-pricked. And then I was counseled. A representative of the health insurance company reviewed my results with me, and that conversation was a turning point. My cholesterol number had come back higher than I expected. Not head-straight-to-the-hospital high, but worry-about-family-history high? Yup.
Cholesterol may have been the only word that would have gotten my attention so effectively. Many of the people higher up in my family tree died younger than they should have, often from strokes.
I did a little research on lowering cholesterol, compared the information to what my counselor had offered, and downloaded a free app to help me manage my calories. Fruit became a BIG part of my daily intake. (I actually edited that last sentence: I avoid the word diet, preferring the term lifestyle change.) After talking to my family doctor, I added a little cardio to the gym routine. Nothing all that impressive, but a little. And 10 months and a reasonable amount of weight-loss later, I can honestly say I’m in the best shape of my adult life. Room to keep going? Sure. But that total cholesterol number is now out of the “borderline” range. (That having been said, my LDL/HDL balance needs work. But at least now I’ve read enough to have a general idea what that means.)
I’m no expert on health, and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have a strong, selfish drive to stay alive, but a piece of this extended commitment has been the idea that I owe it to my kids to do my best to still be around while they need me–and I’d like to spend time with my grandkids someday.
I try to avoid offering too much advice, but I would go so far as to suggest that if you have any questions about your cholesterol, get it checked. And if you need to drop the cholesterol, consider full-time calorie counting on your phone to support slow but steady progress.
Be well. Here’s to many more August 19ths.
Note: DadKnowsBetter has not received any consideration whatsoever for saying so, but the app I have been using is My Fitness Pal, powered by Under Armour. There may be other good options, but this one has been a helpful tool to me, so it seems right to say so.