Bottom Out, Climb Up

I don’t like the direction I’m heading. At the present course, I’m due for a heart attack by 35. If even that late.

This month, I turn 33, and I am already feeling the touches of the “iron hand,” common among cardiovascular sufferers, on my heart. That’s the feeling of sections of my heart not getting enough oxygen due to constricted or clogged blood vessels. Sounds crazy, but it’s what I’m feeling. I remember when I had my radiological heart scan in October of 2003 that the cardiologists found absolutely nothing wrong and found only the normal flow in my heart’s blood supply. I got a clean bill of health. But things can change in a year and a half. Things can accumulate. Things can go south in a short amount of time.

I think it’s time I took care of what needs to be done: I need to have a complete physical. I’m at that age where it’s important to have one every year. There are way too many unknowns. What is my cholesterol level? What about my triglycerides? How can I lose this excess weight hanging on my abdomen, and how much should I lose? And what is with this heart murmur I have and the occasional arrhythmia? Maybe I’m being a tad bit too dramatic, but I live in fear of my heart. Every day. A physical can give me proper guidance.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel well at all. Woke up with my left arm tingling, and my right one was wanting to follow suit. It all started subsiding later in the day, but it was made apparent to me that I was treating my heart bad with all the caffeine I was drinking almost every night in the form of coffee. Recently, I have renewed an interest in, and a craving for, coffee and coffee drinks; love the stuff. But I have noticed the overstressed sensations, the iron hand, the aquatic breathing, the tingling — too much caffeine, too late in the day. Nighttime is the only time I drink coffee, and that’s not good for sleep; I don’t rest, my dreams are screwy, and I wake up with a hangover. That’s just not right.

Yesterday, I did something different. Instead of sitting around the house or driving to a coffeeshop, I decided to walk. Walked to Flightpath, which is in my neighborhood. Walking there isn’t foreign to me, have done it several times and found it enjoyable. But I got there and found there was almost no place to sit; it was way too crowded. So I concocted a plan: dig up the bus schedules, hop on the #7 and head down to near the college, get off, and walk up the hill to Spiderhouse, one of my other hangouts. I would then take the #1 home after spending time there with friends or laptop. And that’s what I did, and somewhat regretted.

Most of the walk from the bus to Spiderhouse was uphill, and I had my full backpack on. I’m not accustomed to that kind of exercise; my life is too sedentary to just “get up and walk” like that. It was a rough walk, but I handled it ok. My heart was beating hard, but I think it was thankful for the exercise. This morning I felt like hell, though. Shoulders were tense – not just shoulders, but shoulder sockets, from carrying the backpack across both shoulders. The hangover was pretty intense – I deprived myself of caffeine last night, and drank stuff with lots of water and sugar, but I was still depleted and spent. And then today I did a lot of work that involved picking up wide handfuls of paper to cut them down into smaller sizes. Shoulders still feel rough. And soon my legs, feet, and arms will, too.

In just the same way that I started realizing that smoking was slowly killing me and I made the commitment to quit smoking, I think it’s slowly dawning on me how badly I’m living with my bad diet, little exercise, and poor maintenance. There is a lot of stuff I need to relearn about feeding myself right, about paying attention to what I’m shoveling into my mouth. There’s a lot I need to make myself do to keep active. I grew up hating sports; I disdained all manner of competitive athletics, so for most of my life I’ve been relatively inert and sedentary (walking and bicycling were my only enjoyable activities). That sedentary bit won’t work anymore. I need to do something. It’s been said that doing only 30 minutes of an activity like walking daily can reduce serious health risks. Doesn’t take much. A friend of mine told me today that, according to his doctor, the baseline limit for what qualifies as an “active, non-sedentary lifestyle” requires no less than 10,000 footsteps a day. That’s a high number, if you ask me, but if it takes 100 steps to get from my car to my apartment door, I think it can be easily achieved by just DOING STUFF.

I think on the days where I don’t go to get my allergy shot before work or need to cash my paycheck during lunch I should walk to work. Hell, I live only 4 blocks from my job, and I’ve walked or ridden my bike there only 3 times. It needs to be a regular habit; I’d get my 30 minutes of walking taken care of at least 3 times a week, guaranteed. That requires discipline and drive, which I apparently lack. But it can be done. Please, wish me luck.

Published by Shawn

He's just this guy, you know?