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It Ain’t Always Good News…

This blog was begun on a whim, a thought that maybe something I had experienced in my life might help someone else, let them share my experience, and hopefully prepare them somehow…. It has rambled and roamed in countless directions since, leaning far towards my frustrations during the pandemic than I would have liked, but I write what I write and I have to stand by it, even if my opinions or ideas change after the fact. But above all else, I have strived for transparency and honesty in what I write. It is an often unkind – or perhaps unflattering – look at myself, but to paraphrase the old quote – the blog doesn’t lie. Even with my health, I have been fully transparent and all-telling, because there are folks who have not yet encountered prostate issues or other health problems and knowledge is power. That thought rings especially true today dear reader.

You know what they say about not asking a question if you really don’t want to know the answer? Well, I have been faithful in following up on my health and my doctor’s recommendations. Yesterday I had a CT scan of my cardiac arteries. This test is used to determine the amount of plaque built up in the heart arteries and is meant to help understand the risks for people who have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol (I have both). The score ranges from 0-1000 with zero meaning no plaque and 1,000 being ready to drop dead. I scored 548 – so that’s pretty bad. This is one time I prefer not to be in the above 50% group!

So, while not good, it isn’t the worst possible news of; worst news would have been dying of a massive heart attack during the scan – or on the way – or perhaps while reading the report…perhaps I find that last one funniest and most ironic! None the less, not the news I wanted – or expected – to hear. I honestly expected a fantastic outcome, like perhaps a barely discernable amount of plaque.

I am really struggling to understand the result. I clearly understand the technical side of it, what I am struggling with is believing it. I feel so damned healthy – I hiked 11.3 miles the day before this test and did not struggle at all; in fact, I ran during parts of it. No arm pain, no chest pain, no shortness of breath. I am in disbelief; denial might be a better word I suppose.

So what now? Dear reader, I have no idea. I guess I wait for my doctor to read the report and then advise me. I would guess I will need to see a cardiologist to ascertain how real and immediate the danger truly is. I have already emailed her and told her I will now – finally – take statin for my cholesterol. (Too little, too late?) I will NOT stop hiking and may actually start running again, assuming my knee will tolerate it. Before the test, I avowed to my wife that I would not change my diet. But now, seeing the result, honestly, I guess I have to – begrudgingly, unwillingly, and painfully – and probably in small steps… and knowing me, likely not too successfully. But I will try.

Of course, stubborn to the end, I just went out into the woods and split a half cord of wood and then hauled two wheelbarrow loads up to my front wood piles. And guess what? I didn’t die!! No pain, no discomfort, no heart attack. So there, cardio artery scan – take that! (Humor always helps….) But I am slowly spinning this whole thing in my head, digesting it, but still not accepting it. There is no reversing the damage my life has inflicted on my arteries. But, there is a way to minimize that damage and to preclude future damage and that is the path to which I need to adhere forthwith. The more I dig into this, the more likely it is that my years (decades) of smoking are likely the culprit here. Apparently smoking is like hanging out a “Welcome” sign for arterial plaque. Glad I quit – almost 11 years ago now.

Ironically, I just heard from my doctor; she made me feel better about all this; that despite being in excellent cardiovascular shape, I do have hardening of the arteries. She is going to check with her peers to see if she should have me take a nuclear stress test. In the interim, I am going on low-dose baby aspirin and statin. Sigh. 2024 is sure turning out to be an interesting year, just not the way I envisioned it. But it is only 1/12th over, so let’s hold a good thought for the future 11 months! Stay well dear reader! And if you smoke, please do yourself a favor and try to quit or at least cut back.

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