My health is good, how’s yours?

I remem­ber hear­ing this sto­ry on NPR back at the start of the year. Basi­cal­ly what it says is that if you get to mid­dle age as a non-smok­er, with good cho­les­terol, glu­cose, and blood pres­sure, your chance of dying of a heart attack is super-low. But if you have two or more of these risk fac­tors, you only have a 50/50 chance of get­ting to The End with­out a heart attack.

On hear­ing this, I felt an over­whelm­ing urge to tell my twen­ty-year-old self to get with the pro­gram, that my already-mid­dle-aged self couldn’t do any­thing about it at this point. Twen­ty-year-old self thumbed his nose at me and ate more Chee­tos.

I hadn’t had a phys­i­cal in a few years (in my defense, my doc­tor told me the last time to come back “in a few years”), and I don’t think I’d ever had my cho­les­terol or glu­cose checked. Like ever.

So, on the cusp of 42, I sched­uled a phys­i­cal.

My doc­tor is a hoot. She’s like 6 foot, tall and mus­cu­lar, and could snap me like a twig. She’s also fun­ny and per­son­able, and likes tak­ing some time to chat. We went over how I’d been, how I was inter­est­ed in this blood pan­el of stats, and, oh yeah, we have this lit­tle prostate thing to check, now that you’re over 40.

I had been expect­ing this, but was hold­ing out hope because in some places on the Inter­net you can find peo­ple who say you can wait until age 50 before check­ing your prostate health. Of course, oth­er places on the Inter­net will tell you it’s best to check your prostate health your­self. And those places have video. The Inter­net is all about pick­ing and choos­ing your sources, right?

My doc­tor hadn’t been to either of these sites, appar­ent­ly, as she went on to deliv­er a very detailed descrip­tion of what she was about to do. In the end (rimshot!) it was quick, pain­less, and real­ly kind of anti­cli­mac­tic. It seems my prostate is fine. She tossed her glove, washed her hands, and we went on to sto­ries about her kids (appar­ent­ly they’d LOVE my t-shirt).

On Mon­day, I got my blood test results. And as it turns out, I am well with­in the healthy norms for all the things they check.

So, yay me. Not dead yet.

In read­ing the linked study (yes, the actu­al study, yay Inter­net! I for­give you for the prostate self-test videos), a cou­ple things are clear.

First, I still have a long way to go (age 55) to real­ly meet their cri­te­ria, so I have some time before I can start huff­ing cans of Red­di-wip for break­fast.

And sec­ond, low­er­ing the inci­dence of heart dis­ease and heart relat­ed deaths (and stroke, they men­tioned, too) real­ly requires pre­vent­ing risk fac­tors from emerg­ing, rather than treat­ing them once they exist. Get­ting reg­u­lar blood tests to mon­i­tor your blood pres­sure, glu­cose lev­els, and cho­les­terol can be key in notic­ing when things are get­ting bad before they get bad.

Which means, go see your doc­tor, twen­ty-year-old selves.