Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's a vein explosion!

Blood Pressure

Before we jump into the next highly informative chapter of lies about losing weight, I wanted to briefly give some hints about getting started and what I did. Hopefully these things will provide a nice lead-in to learning about bloooooood….

First thing I did was buy a scale. Actually, I already had a scale, but I decided to finally take it out of the box. These things all have varying degrees of accuracy, so I wouldn’t take the number between your toes as the gospel, but it provides a benchmark. If it says 200 Monday and 190 on Friday, you’ve lost weight, maybe not 10 lbs and you may not actually weigh 190, but at least you see some progress, because you probably wont really notice it in the way your clothes fit. This shit happens slowly, and I need something to tell me that I’m doing good, especially if it’s a machine that I know doesn’t love me.

Next thing I decided was that I should probably go to the doctor. It’s something that the average 30 year-old male probably doesn’t do very often. I think the last time I went was three years ago, and that was because it was required to go to China. Now that we’re getting older, we need to be aware of what sorts of things are going to go wrong in our bodies and early detection is possible, but you cant detect stuff by surfing for porn or watching Buffy reruns, you actually need to see a professional (they call ‘em doctors, and they don’t know SHIT about Buffy).

A quick story about my physical. I walked into the Baylor Medical Clinic examination room with Shaniqua, my nurse. On top of the white-butcher paper on top of the bed was a folded up gown and I jokingly asked Shaniqua if that was for me.

“Yes sir” she replied without a smile.

She did however crack a gold-toothed smile when I held the Medium sized gown up to my XXL sized frame.

“You can change after we’re finished here.”

She sat me down and took my blood pressure which was high, pre-hypertension, as they call it in the biz. That’s all she said, there was nothing about why or how it got that way or what it meant or how to lower it. It was simply ‘high’. This was the first glimpse I got of the amount of work I may have to do on the education aspect of losing weight. Shaniqua was basically a ‘machine’ with tattooed tits, not all that different from my scale – total impartial information. You weigh 225, you’re blood pressure is high. Deal with it.

After probing my nervous body a bit more she said, “Ok Lucas, the Dr. Crouch will be in to see you soon. Go ahead and put on the gown, make sure to take all your clothes off.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“No, you have to change into the gown.”

And with that, she left the room and left me confused and not really wanting to nude-up to wear a gown that was the size of a cracker when folded up.

So I unfolded the gown and noticed that it was basically the size of one of my t-shirts, took off my shirt and put it on and watched it casually drape itself down to my bellybutton. Next came the pants, the socks and finally the skivvies. Now, I’m standing there with this thin cotton gown, in a room that feels like a meat locker trying to figure out how to tie the damn thing, let alone figure out how to get it to cover up my overly exposed scrotum.

There was a single strap on it, but nothing to attach it to, like a shoestring without an eyelet on the other side of the tongue. I was confused and standing there facing the door with this thing hanging off my body, wide open and freezing.

I don’t like to telegraph my stories, but I’m sure you have all guessed that this is the time the doctor choose to fling the door open and come in.

That brief moment, several things were just plain wrong. I was holding my gown wide open trying to figure out what to do with it. The nurse station was directly outside of my room and there was no less than four nurses out there, all black with tattoos and gold teeth, all watching the doctor go into my room. It was cold and my twig and berries were in no way, shape or form in presentation form, but alas, they were tossed on stage like a nervous nerd at a talent show.

Let the physical begin. Picking, probing, questioning, cold steel, shy testicles. It was a great day.

They also gave my blood a run through the gauntlet, made sure my dick wasn’t going to fall off and briefly entertained the idea of shining a flashlight into my asshole.

The take-home from that story is that I have high blood pressure but good cholesterol and did not have diabetes.

Because my cholesterol was ok, I really didn’t look into much cholesterol research, however, the simple side is this: There are two kinds of cholesterol, the good cholesterol (HDL, which stands for ‘Happy Day Luke’ and the bad cholesterol (LDL, which stands for ‘Luke, Dammit, Luke’).

Good cholesterol keeps the arteries from getting blocked and removing fat deposits from the body. Bad cholesterol is responsible for blocking the arteries and boy bands.

Blood pressure, because mine was a bit high, I looked into a bit more. Everyone seems to know that the lower the blood pressure the better, but I really had no idea what caused higher blood pressure, why it caused it, what ‘bad’ meant and how to regulate that crap, so I just wanted to spend a page or two explaining it in my horrible and probably incorrect way.

Several things cause high blood pressure, all for different reasons. First of all, weight. Being overweight raises your blood pressure by making your heart work overtime. The heart has trouble getting the blood around to your love handles and your belly and back in a timely fashion. This causes backups and stuff, thus raising the pressure of the blood in your veins.

Secondly, smoking and drinking increase your blood pressure. They cause your vessels to constrict, thus raising the pressure because blood cant get through fast enough.

Thirdly, diet can effect your blood pressure. Foods high in sodium increase the…uhh…sodium…. in your bloodstream. This may be the most complicated reason to explain, but it’s also the biggest reason for high blood pressure in most people, so I’ll go into it a bit more in depth.

The cells in the human body are constantly burning energy. One of the biggest energy burners is called the Sodium/Potassium pump. This pump is basically the mechanism that takes sodium out of cells (and replaces it with potassium). Because of the charges on the molecules, it actually burns calories because it’s moving the sodium ‘up stream’ or against the body’s natural cellular charges. When you get too much sodium in your body, the pump cant pump fast enough to regulate your body’s chemical balance, thus, a buildup of sodium. That said, there should be two ways we can help our blood pressure from the effects of sodium. Less sodium or more potassium.

The reason sodium is such a big deal is that it occurs in so many of our foods. If it were the other way around, potassium in all of our foods, we’d be worrying about keeping potassium levels down (too much of which is just as dangerous as too much sodium). As it is, we typically don’t get enough potassium, so the buildup is on the sodium side.

What are the effects of high blood pressure? The two biggest effects are stroke and heart attack. Strokes and heart attacks are actually much more similar than people realize. They are both due to improper amounts of blood being delivered to parts of the body. If you don’t get enough blood to your brain, you have a stroke. If you don’t enough blood to your heart, you have a heart attack. We cant control what vessels clog and deteriorate, so that is why these two things often happen very close to each other. If you have one, you’re probably at a high risk for the other.

All that fun stuff aside. I decided to spend some extra energy figuring out how to lower my sodium intake, and it sucks.

Veggies and fruits are low in sodium. Meat is high in sodium, very high. But meat is necessary because it gives us much needed protein which keeps me looking like Schwarzenegger. The sodium aspect is something that makes the strict Atkins diet somewhat dangerous.

From time to time, I’ll likely mention food that I eat because it is low in sodium or high in potassium or whatever. Now you know why, assuming that the above is correct.

Stay tuned for the next round of rabble where I discuss my lunching habits. Unfortunately it does not contain ice cream or pizza, but it does include a type of buffet. Peace out.

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