Some form of intermittent fasting is good for you. The books say it, my cardiologist grudgingly admitted it. I’m at 83 kgs in weight and should be under 80, and using something like Michael Mosley’s 5:2 fasting diet is the only way I know how to slim down. All in all, I have strong motivation to fast but haven’t done so for months. The hard part is doing it once (with the thought of doing it regularly). Having done it once, and realizing (yet again) that it’s not so tough, regular fasting becomes feasible. At least that’s my experience…
I had 264 calories for breakfast. Shortly I’ll make a dinner meal that amounts to 336 calories, a huge pile of veggies plus two eggs. 600 calories is about a quarter of a male’s daily average. That’s the basis of the 5:2 system, to do that twice in a week, and it’s worked in the past for me. Trepidation creeps in … but no, I’ll do it.
A friend recommended an episode of The Drive podcast run by Peter Attia, a physician obsessing about “the applied science of longevity.” I’d listened to one episode a year back and had rejected the series, simply because Attia is incredibly intense, almost too intense to be convincing. But this episode, (#217, would you believe it?) interviews a particularly distinguished exercise physiologist and researcher turns out to be exactly what interests me right now.
So … my situation is that I’ve exercised regularly (albeit never very expertly) for decades. My recent cardiac health scare, far from reassuring me, has unsettled my exercise routines, because I ask myself questions. Questions such as … with exercise seeming more onerous as one ages, is it worthwhile? Surely the longevity effects of exercise accrue with time, so after fifty years of reasonable diligence, isn’t another ten years’ worth of questionable value? Isn’t this phase of life best spent “relaxing a bit”? And so on and so on.
So this episode has, some ten minutes in, has already struck me as revelatory, as both conversationalists seem to be saying that exercise has a much higher impact than diet, something the press seems to express the opposite view on. I think I’ll spend quite some time on this podcast over the next few days, digesting and concluding.
Some folks adore trips to the gym. Others, like me, struggle to get there, oscillating between a sense of achievement and feelings of boredom and suffering. As part of the Health Big Year, I’m attempting to embrace the very modern view that regular gym sessions (that is, more frequently than twice a week) are vital defences against heart attack, strokes, cancers, and Alzheimer’s.
So … the best way I have come across to maintain gym motivation is to make it part of a routine early in the morning. Three times a week, I aim to carry out 5 AM stretches at home, then to head to Visions Gym in Hawthorn before 6 o’clock. Breakfast at 7:15 usually feels great!
Blood pressure, who pays any attention to that? I never did, over the decades when I thought my fitness, secured through persistent jogging, guaranteed basic health. Well, now that I’m classified as having mild non-obstructive coronary artery disease, and can see that recent assessments mention “mild hypertension,” I need to get a handle on the old blood pressure thingy.
So I bought a thingy, a Blood Pressure Monitor. My Big Year challenge on Wednesday was to learn how to use it. Turns out, it’s a simple process, exactly like what happens at the doctor’s. On Thursday, I forgot to take a measurement, but yesterday and today I remembered, hopefully locking in daily data additions.
So far my three measurements have been 130/90, 132/96, and 149/92. What do those numbers mean? At first glance, yes, I’m a little high, even for my age, but I’ll take a closer look.
Can one reduce blood pressure through healthy living? Again, I don’t know. Yet.
At the end of last month, I got in to see a cardiologist, I guess because my “calcium score” on a CT-CA scan (my GP wanted to persuade me to take statins) was 600, with 400+ being “extreme.” My brother had just had a quadruple bypass and our father had had angina for years before dying of a heart attack. The cardiologist told me to expect the worst and organised me for an angiogram a few days later.
Fronting up, nervous, I listened to his pre-procedure briefing. Again, he warned me. An angiogram is an amazing procedure, shimmying up through a tiny hole in an arm, giving the cardiologist intimate access to the arteries around the heart, all done with a general anaesthetic. I drifted off. When the cardio, sweaty with hard labour, briefed me a little time later, at first I could not comprehend. Apparently, only one artery is partly blocked but not consequentially, and no action need be taken. I have a clean bill of health, can jog to my heart’s content, can hike up steep mountains.
That was my “health scare” that ended up with “good news.”
But I’m not satisfied. Why the giddy calcium score? Am I low risk now for a heart attack? If so, why am I taking statins? Do statins work? What are my morbidity/mortality risks? Was my previous diet/exercise regime (fashioned with some thought) adequate or, better still, optimal? What about other “older person” risks such as cancer and Alzheimer’s? Should my “health scare” prompt relaxation or should I change up how I eat and how I exercise?
All these questions and many more not even formulated prompt me to start this Healthy Big Year, which I’ll actually run for sixteen months (since a Big Year best fits a calendar year but I want to start now). As with all Big Years, I commit to a daily task. In this case, each day I shall either do something positive for health and longevity or I’ll spend half an hour researching what I should be doing.
I sigh, aware that this Healthy Big Year may well prove to dull as dull can be. So be it. By putting focus where I should, surely at the end of 2023 I’ll have resolved all my many questions? Surely?
Tough, glistening sap, like an open wound on the mend.
Birds are my conduit to nature. I think many city geeks, brought up with no natural connection with the real world, appreciate such a conduit. I rarely view plants as anything more than “pretty” or ”wow,” but on the recent eleven-day tour around southwest WA, I noticed this flower. I noticed it. I photographed it. I think my mental health perked up.