Humans, by nature, are procrastinators. We generally don’t have a good grasp on large-scale time, so it’s easy to put things off. I’ll start my diet on Monday. Yeah, I know I should probably start tracking my blood pressure. I haven’t gone to a doctor in a long time, but I’m just so busy right now. We all do it. Things that aren’t an immediate concern are easy to put off. Next thing you know, months (or years) have gone by. You just don’t think about it, until something bad happens.
Someone we know recently had a family member whose husband suffered a massive heart attack right in front of her. It must have been an awful experience. He was only a few years older than me. I’ll be honest, it sort of freaked me out. To be what I consider still relatively young and have something like that happen. How did he not know he was at risk? The answer is that most of us don’t. My floor at the hospital was neuroscience. A large portion of our patients were stroke victims. And a very large portion of those patients either had no idea they were at risk, or probably knew and chose not to take corrective action. I get it – we’re procrastinators. We can always start tomorrow. I’ve got plenty of time.
There’s a screening test I’d been planning on taking for a while but kept putting off. It’s the coronary artery calcium scan. It shows how much plaque buildup you have in your arteries. The score you get gives you an idea of where you risk factor falls as a percentile based upon your age. Typical numbers range from zero to 400, although it’s not uncommon to see numbers in the 1,000’s. With your score you can make decisions with your doctor about risk factors and medication and lifestyle changes needed to best manage your lifelong risk. This is a pretty good video to describe the test a bit more.
Anyway, I’d been planning on getting the test and actually had a referral set up from my doctor and then virus which shall not be named hit and everything shut down. And I promptly forgot about the test. That is, until I heard about the guy having the heart attack last week. Convinced my arteries were already completely occluded, I called my doctor and got the referral right away.
The test is an easy and non-invasive CT scan (a fancy Xray). 15 minutes. If insurance doesn’t cover it, it’s not expensive – $150 to $300. The odd thing is that very few general practitioners will prescribe it as a general screening tool unless you’re already in a high-risk category. You almost always have to ask for it. It makes no sense. We have a cheap, non-invasive screening tool available, why not use it? I suppose just prescribing statins to everyone based upon cholesterol ratios is easier. Whatever.
Anyway, I got my test done. And by that afternoon I had the results. Perfect. A score of zero. No evidence of plaque buildup. Whew! I can continue to eat bacon. Because I’m older and not exactly a life-long marathon runner, I was convinced for some reason that my results were going to come back and show significant blockage. I don’t know why I was so sure of it. It must be the realization that I am aging. I’m drifting towards that age when bad things start happening to people. Very morbid, I know.
But all is good. I’ve been working hard in the gym and seeing improvement. Ski season started and my fitness is better at this early stage than it’s been in a while. I’m pleased. Except the diet. I just can’t seem to bust through that mental blockage. I blame it on hockey. Our local ECHL team has a deal where if they score 4 goals everyone in the stadium gets a coupon for a free Jumbo Jack. This season we’ve been winning a lot, and by large margins. Let’s just say I have more free Jumbo Jack coupons than I need. And the last thing I need to do is be eating Jumbo Jacks. The struggle is real, people.