Health not something to be taken lightly

In a recent column Managing Editor Joe Centers wrote about our recent little health assessment day here at the Reflector, during which we checked pulse rates, glucose levels, blood pressures and good and bad cholesterol levels. Naturally, we're concerned about the health of those who work hard to put out the paper each day and want to make the resources available to them to feel better and live longer. The fact that we save a little money on health insurance premiums by doing so is also nice.
Andy Prutsok
Jul 25, 2010

In a recent column Managing Editor Joe Centers wrote about our recent little health assessment day here at the Reflector, during which we checked pulse rates, glucose levels, blood pressures and good and bad cholesterol levels.

Naturally, we're concerned about the health of those who work hard to put out the paper each day and want to make the resources available to them to feel better and live longer. The fact that we save a little money on health insurance premiums by doing so is also nice.

In his column, Centers referred to me as a bit of a health nut, or something like that, and noted that I did not eat meat.

He's right that I do not eat meat, nor do I consume any of the various liquids or semi-liquids animals secrete from their bodies. While I know that may seem "weird," other than that, I'm basically normal, I think. I would not describe myself as a health nut as much as I am a health coward.

Had he lived, my dad would have turned 81 today. He died at 62, relatively young by today's standards.

As a result, he did not get to meet my kids, his grandchildren, and they were deprived of the opportunity to have known him. The experience would have been enriching for all of them and I'm still a little angry with him over it.

He was a mess physically, having worked his entire life in the coal mines and suffering several serious injuries. In addition, he drank too much and would burn a couple packs of Camel-nons during the course of a typical day over the last 45 years or so of his life.

Dad must have been in his early or mid-40s younger than I am now in my first memories of him, but I never remember him not looking old I mean really old.

Still, by making it to 62, he outlived by a dozen years his nearest male relatives his father, his brothers and my brother.

Except for one brother who died on Iwo Jima, they all met their end through heart failure, I believe, at various ages ranging from 34 to 50.

Apart from my son who seems to be doing fine at 18 those are my nearest male relatives, too.

I was 27 when dad died in 1988 and my brother would be dead at 34 within a year.

That's when it dawned on me that I, too, may be at risk of a similar fate. I started paying close attention to any feeling emanating from my chest area that seemed even remotely abnormal. After a week or so of a weird feeling, I went to see a cardiologist. He took some blood and hooked me up to a contraption in his office and apparently didn't like what he saw. When they heard my family history, they popped some nitro glycerin pills in my mouth and checked me into the hospital. It was scary.

It turned out the blip on my EKG was caused by a valve that was slightly deformed or something and was no big deal, I was told. What was a big deal, however, was my cholesterol level which was hovering in the upper 200s.

That was 18 years ago and had it been just me, I probably wouldn't have done anything, but my son had been born just a month or two before and I didn't want to chance not being around for him. I learned that animals and things that come out of them are the only source of cholesterol outside of genetics. As a result, I've not tasted a hot dog, hamburger or steak since. My cholesterol level is pretty low, but even with my extreme precautions, there were people here at the paper taking no such precautions who had levels as low as mine.

Apart from missing my dad on his birthday, I guess my point of all this was to encourage you to pay attention to your health. Even if you don't care what happens to you, there are others who do. I'm not encouraging anyone else to do what I do. It has just worked for me and you need to find what works for you. With the information and medications available to us today, there's no reason outside of accidents we all shouldn't live long, reasonably healthy lives. If you don't care about yourself, at least care about the people who love and depend on you, because when you're gone, you're gone for good.