2019 - One year on from one year on
I never used to get nervous going for blood tests. Why? Largely because I didn’t go for any. I cruised through life enjoying red wine (of doubtful parentage) and fags.
Nowadays it’s a slightly nerve-racking process where my (very pleasant) nurse adds injury to insult.
‘You might feel a slight prick, she says, looking at me.
Actually I feel a big prick. In effect I’ve all but wrecked my own health. I could use more forthright language than ‘wrecked’, but people of a sensitive disposition may happen upon my warblings.
If you haven’t read previous reports my tests are diabetes based but encompass all sorts of other minor bits as well, like liver and kidneys. As a result of uncontrolled diabetes, there are potentially many things that can go awry. I’m scheduled back a few days later for an appointment with my diabetic nurse (DN), or fire-breathing dragon as regular followers will recognize her. Fortunately, this time, the results are OK and there are limited areas where I can be scolded by Smaug.
The HbA1c test is the primary test which measures the blood glucose average over the previous three months. It showed me to be ‘almost not pre-diabetic’. In other words there are readings that indicate you are diabetic (above 49) and those that indicate you are pre-diabetic (42 to 49). Below 42 you are non diabetic. So, at 44 I’m not quite normal and just a bit pre-diabetic, which is better than when I first got tested thirty months ago when I was well over 50 and a full blown Type 2 diabetic. I was also fat and being measured for a (large) funeral suit.
In fact I was on the bus on the way to get fitted for my suit when I was told by a vascular specialist that my arteries were buggered. A taxi screeched up and waved down the bus. I was bundled into the taxi and whisked away to the tailors in case I pegged it before I’d paid the deposit.
My bloods this time were OK despite consuming a ‘healthy’ quantity of red wine accompanied by a regular mound of peanuts. In addition I eat meat, of all colours, from white to black depending on who’s cooking. Perhaps the blood results are OK because of my intake of wine. After all they’re always saying how good for you it is. Perhaps I’ve found a diet that is the elixir of life, the Nut ‘n’ Merlot regime. After all nutrition begins with ‘nut’ doesn’t it? Then again diet begins with die, less encouraging, so take your pick.
I’m actually on a low very carb diet, just about keto in fact. I made changes when diagnosed Type 2 because I was frightened. I had a fear of losing things, like feet or sight or life. To date nobody will persuade me that I should return to the ‘healthy plate’ suggested by the NHS which contains all sorts of crap. To make it worse the concoctions are compiled by some naggy Australian dietician who’s inflection rises at the end of each phrase to REALLY get on your tits.
I still can’t persuade my diabetic nurse that vin rouge is medicinal and lifting a 3-litre box four times an evening is good for the heart, they are about 3 kilos after all (when full, which is usually only for a short while). She couldn’t help but notice that I was slimmer than she, perhaps that’s why she was so haughty when she couldn’t find a pulse in my feet. ‘Perhaps the machine’s faulty,’ she haughted, haughtily.
My diet basically means I don’t eat sugar. More accurately I avoid anything that is turned into sugar in my body between mouth and exit portals further south. Self-imposed bans include bread, pasta, sugar, snacks, chocolate and other previously unmissable bits and bobs like Yorkshire Pudding and ice cream. My regime also (largely) precludes over-processed food which contains chemically complex preservatives designed to make already unhealthy stuff last longer. It also enables crap food maintain an horrific taste for many months.
Shopping is quicker nowadays because I can scoot past at least half the aisles in the supermarket. Of course, some aisles I’d already ignored, like the ladies sanitary aisle or the baby food one, but others, like crisps and snacks and the frozen food section, I now steer straight past. After you’ve avoided the cheese and onion crisp aisle once.......... it’s even more difficult next time!
If you don’t know, I was diagnosed with a blocked aorta, which was a bit nasty. Is a bit nasty, it won’t mend, so it’s a Sword of Damocles I live with.
‘You’re doing ok,’ said the surgeon when he diagnosed me about 30 months ago, ‘so we’ll not operate for the present. It’s a slightly risky one anyway, so let’s see if you can manage through a decent diet, which means basically looking after your sugars, and take plenty of exercise. And don’t smoke.’
I hadn’t had a ciggy for three years at that point. Anyhow this was all rather a wake-up call. As a result of my Type 2 diagnosis I’d already changed my diet and was exercising plenty through doing property up, but I had to do more. Each time I go to the loo, or shower, I see the indistinct image of blue veins just below the skin. Evidence that there is a shortage of blood. This, I can assure you, makes you get off your backside and start moving.
So, in addition to the physical work I do, I decided to take three one-mile walks a day with the dog. That’s three separate miles, morning, noon and eve. If I try and do three all in one go my legs get sore and my backside goes numb. Having said that, I think I’m walking better now, two and a half years on. I can do a mile at a brisk pace without too much discomfort, part of it uphill. I certainly couldn’t do that a couple of years ago. Boringly I usually take the same route at similar times. The early morning one starts at 06:00 (very military) so for much of the year it’s still dark. I don my head torch and go through the park, past a school and a gloomy manor house before going down a tree-arched lane. I hear the very earliest morning birds and sometimes see a roe deer. When I turn right onto the final third-of-a-mile stretch across the playing fields we see the eyes of three or four foxes reflected in my torch beam. The dog goes potty chasing scent-trails. Though every step is inevitably a step nearer my demise, it’s also paradoxically a step towards avoiding an early appointment with the reaper.
I’ve worked out that three miles a day is roughly a thousand a year. So in the two and a half years since I saw the surgeon I’ve walked from Lancashire to Barcelona and back then headed north and have just turned round at John O Groats for the return trip. I bought some walking boots at the start and the have just started letting water in so they’ve done OK. Bad timing though, the finances are in tatters because we’ve just about paid for a big house renovation so I may have to have wet feet for a while. When I get back from the far north I think I’ll head virtually west and visit Galway, a place I vaguely remember my dad singing about fifty years ago (not long before he died much too early). Perhaps I can find his trickling trout stream and see the sun go down over the bay. Actually I could divert to Stranraer and go straight to the Emerald Isle. I’m not trying for short cuts, more fulfilling a dream quicker so I can begin another walking adventure. See, I’m trying to look forward.
The reason for the punishing schedule is for me to develop new blood vessels in my legs. ‘If it hurts, just carry on for a bit,’ said the nurse. ‘It’ll help.’ So I do.
Now just for interest (!) I’ll include a few results. I’d like you to note the words used to describe my results - desirable, optimal, normal, ideal.
Please note there is not a single result referenced with ‘crap’, ‘awful’ or ‘knackered’ (although they can be attributed to other areas of my life! Like my walking boots or golf swing.).
Your Total Cholesterol of 3.50 is DESIRABLE
Your LDL of 1.92 is OPTIMAL
Your HDL of 1.4 is NORMAL
Your Triglyceride level of 0.39 is NORMAL
Your Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio is: 2.50
- (preferably under 5.0, ideally under 3.5) IDEAL
Your HDL/LDL ratio is: 0.729
- (preferably over 0.3, ideally over 0.4) IDEAL
Your triglycerides/HDL ratio is: 0.279
- (preferably under 1.74, ideally under 0.87) IDEAL
So, what’s all that lot mean? (The above, I might add, is only a small section of a two-page print-out!)
I’m advised that one of the main indicators of reasonable blood is the final one there, triglycerides (fats or lipids in the blood) divided by HDL (high density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol as it’s incorrectly called). As you can see above, I have reason to feel optimistic. Having lost weight the suit I was fitted for is now too large but because my bloods are reasonable the tailor has lost interest. He has moved on to any one of millions who are blindly heading for a wooden box. In fact I’m the lightest I’ve been for about thirty years, and have annoyingly dropped an underpant size, more expense!
Just for the record, I believe that total cholesterol is unimportant unless it is sky high. There’s a lot of big-pharma skulduggery around cholesterol. It’s actually in every cell in our bodies, without it we die. To try and lower it to minimal proportions is thought by many to be the exact opposite to what we should be doing. Recent studies show that low cholesterol results in higher mortality!
OK, enough of that, time for my evening walk. It’s been absolutely siling down for 24 hours and my boots are still soggy after the lunchtime sortie, but onward and upward.
We’ve just had a tiler lay 45 square metres of floor tiles in our new house.
‘Because of all this rain I’m glad you did it when you did,’ I told him, ‘the extra weight should stop the house floating off.’