Know Your Numbers

I prefer to work with words, but I’ve always known my numbers: how to count to ten, how many teeth I’d lost, how much I’d earn at twenty cents an hour, how many years until I could drive; my age, height, weight, and grade point average; mortgage loan rates, check book balances, mileage per gallon, years to retirement.

But it seems knowing numbers is a never-ending chore, and  I have to add more if I want my Janet-strives-to-be-healthy award. Health experts — no longer content with nagging me about my weight, water consumption, physical activity, and food choices — now insist I need to know and track my vital numbers.

Evidently, aging brings with it an onslaught of numbers useful for detecting significant changes in my weary body: blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood glucose, triglycerides, body mass index and on and on and on until my head spins and my important numbers escalate into the danger zone.

taking blood pressure

When younger, I extended my arm for the blood pressure cuff as routinely and thoughtlessly as I swatted mosquitoes. When the nurse reported my numbers, I responded, “Is that good or bad?” and later couldn’t remember what they were when Joel asked.

Currently, under doctor’s orders, I’m taking my blood pressure at home: three times a day, two or three times a week, for six weeks. I put up with the nuisance of doing so because I hope to amass enough evidence to avoid taking another pill,  but I whine about it.

After I strap on the cuff, I sit quietly, breathing slowly and deeply, visualizing pleasant scenes: sunsets, thickly frosted brownies, a Powerball check with my name on it.

When I’m sufficiently calm, I push the start button and hope. Then I wait for my numbers to flash on the screen so I can record them, study them, compare them, and compute my running average. I’m beginning to feel like a baseball statistician.

hand holding blood in test tube and colored tubes test

I’ve also learned to recognize odd words like bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase. I pronounce them without hesitation or, unfortunately, comprehension. I can recite the acceptable ranges for blood glucose and calcium faster than Dr. Oz; and I don’t panic as the number of tubes drawn for my blood test escalates until I think if the blood-happy nurse doesn’t soon stop, I’ll need a transfusion.

I know my wish to avoid all serious illnesses until the day I die is as doomed as my childhood effort to never lick a wooden popsicle stick; but I also believe staying as healthy as possible for as long as possible will increase the quality of the years I have left to live.

So if you’ll excuse me, my doctor’s nurse just called to say my triglyceride level was a little high on my recent five-tube blood test. I need to go google some new numbers.

 

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35 thoughts on “Know Your Numbers

  1. I love that your “pleasant scenes” include “sunsets, thickly frosted brownies, and a powerball check.” Mine would also include a deliciously hot bubble bath with a good book and no interruptions. 😊 Recently, as Tyson and I had our pre-life insurance exams, the nurse gushed over Tyson’s marathon-runner heart rate (even though the man avoids cardio like the plague!), and my evaluation came back as sub-par. 😕 I grumped about it for days, but then used it as motivation to get back into a regular workout routine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I had thought, I’d have included your pleasant scene as well, Becca. I also would have been unhappy at the two heart rates. We must be related!

      PS I so enjoyed your FB tribute to your dad on Father’s Day. It made me look forward to the day you find the time to resume your blog.

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  2. Thank you Janet for offering such wise words and advice about knowing your numbers. When those many vials of blood are being drawn, ask the lab to mail you a copy of the results. Hard copies that show YOUR numbers compared to the normal ranges can be reassuring, or allow you to know where to focus.your efforts. Here’s wishing you high HDL, low LDL and a BP less than 120/80. You are an excellent role model, Janet. Now, if only the doctor would stop mentioning my BMI.

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    • Many years ago,Mercy, you advised me to always get a report of my blood test results, and I listened. It is reassuring to see the ranges. Thanks for your clever wishes (though they came too late on the low LDL).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, a really high HDL can balance out a high LDL. HDL acts like little scrubbers in the blood stream and moves the dangerous LDL to the liver….and away!
        Especially insist on seeing with your own eyes the results of a biopsy.

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      • Thanks, Mercy, I’m relieved to know I have an abundance of little scrubbers working away for me. I remember back in the day, they used to say the ratio of HDL to LDL was the important number, but they don’t talk about that anymore, so I though my really high HDL no longer gave me bragging rights. I’ll remember the biopsy advice.

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  3. I know the feeling when they keep hauling out another vial for my blood. Sort of “Hail and Farewell”!. It is so important to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Some people seem to do it so effortlessly. I remember Gilda Radner’s remark when told she had another limitation: “There’s always something”. I have often felt the same, but we’re still upright. Keep counting your numbers Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we are still upright, Kati, and, as my brother would add, still taking sustenance. But, oh, did Gilda have it right. I’m actually looking forward to my annual physical at the end of the month because I don’t have any strange or worrisome symptoms to describe to my doctor. It’s been a good year!

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  4. Loved your story – as always. I must admit to a bit of cynicism about numbers. Do I really want to give up my evening glass of wine just to have better liver test numbers? And how relevant are those numbers when the ” normals” that we aspire to may not be normal for older bodies, as the tests were mainly done on healthy male volunteers.
    P.S. My daughter’s record is fifteen vials of blood at one session!

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  5. I’ve wondered the same thing,Sally: Could it be that my test result, which is a little high or low, might be my normal? I hadn’t thought about the norms being established on those unlike me. I’d guess that, as with most things, moderation and common sense is the key, so I’d say go ahead and enjoy your glass of red wine. Fifteen vials. Your daughter has set a record that I hope not to break. Thanks for the great comment.

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  6. Janet, I do love the way you express yourself, but I do hope you can enjoy life without too much worry about the numbers. Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss, but I’m glad you are being sensible. 🙂

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    • Thanks for your concern, Barbara, and your always positive comments about my writing. I think I’m handling the numbers thing pretty well. My primary care physician, a lady I like, respect, and trust tells me when I need to be concerned, and then I am and try to do what she recommends. The rest of the time, there so many things to think about more interesting than my numbers.

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  7. Well Janet, never thought I’d say this, but many of our customers report great lowering of blood-pressure by drinking Beet Juice, many Beet Crystals. Biotta a good brand, or Just Beet. Juicing your own messy, and work. Remember when a “D Q” Dilly Bar was huge and you may get a “Free” written on the stick? You had to lick it clean to read it – a gross taste. The plastic one are wobbly, more ice-cream lost in the dirt. Now take care of yourself- and down Beets, love those Beets!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m floored and flummoxed. The author of Godfrey the boy who hated beets recommending beets? Seems suspicious somehow. I had forgotten about Dilly Bars, Sheila, and my excitement at the idea of winning a free one, though I don’t think I ever did. Perhaps because I could never bring myself to lick the stick clean.

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      • Janet, dear- I have been worried all day that you may not trust my advocating Beet Juice for Blood Pressure. A lot of what we sell is quackery personified, but I double checked with a trusted col-worker on the Beets. My odd young man who disliked beets not withstanding- I hope you are doing well. I believe D.Q. made the sticks taste gross, to prevent “Frees” You light up Tuesdys .

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      • I don’t know, Sheila. I trust your advice, but I tend to agree with Godfrey about beets, unless they’re pickled, and drinking beet juice seems downright masochistic. Am I wrong? Have you tasted it? I am doing well, Sheila,and your comments and blog play a part in that. How can I not be happy when I have them to look forward to? And you about you; are you doing well this summer?

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    • I’ve often thought how happy I am that I’m retired and have time for all the preventive measures my doctors recommend; on the other hand, I’m irrupted when those same measures interfere with all the things I’ve found to do since retiring.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The “normal” numbers created by some sadistic medical group are not a one-size-fits-all, as they would have you believe. Age, genetic make-up, body type, sex, environment, all have an impact on what is “normal.” It also seems that every time I get close to the “normal” numbers, somebody changes them. What are we to do?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice job. I just try to stay active and hope that’s enough, but when I read about these people who jog 3 miles a day tipping over, I wonder what’s the point. I just do what I do so I can do what I like to do. 🙂

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  10. Good evening Janet- No, I have never drank beet juice, even on a dare, I was not sure if you ever had, best stick to traditional methods- no beets. I am well, stay snecked in my cave in hot weather, and am working on “Adelaide The Chambermaid”- a fairly long short story. Yours in Guffaw..as always.

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  11. Shoot, Janet! Your picture reminded me that I forgot to take MY bp today!!! Thanks, Little Buddy, for the reminder! 🙂 (Unfortunately, I had to “add another pill” to my morning pills to take, but it’s not so bad…keeps me alive and kicking!!) Another great post, J! 🙂

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  12. Janet, I’m always amazed by your creativity. I love that you can use those boring numbers from a patient work-up sheet and create an entertaining blog post from them!

    I, too, have always loved numbers and used to brag that I could still remember my locker combinations from high school, and the phone numbers of all the places I had lived. (But I don’t remember them anymore.)

    I wonder sometimes, though, if we’re too obsessed with numbers of the “modern” medical era. I’m pretty sure that my Great Aunts never obsessed about numbers—or even went to the doctor very often—and most of them lived into their 90s!

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    • I agree, Rita, about great aunts. Mine cooked with lard and bacon fat, didn’t think they’d eaten dinner unless it included dessert, and lived long. I guess common sense and moderation will serve us best even as we are aware of our numbers and deal with them as best we can.

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