One of the things I love about being 40 is that I have two decades of adult life to reflect back on. I’ve been through the decade of big hair and lived to tell about it. One thing I hate about being 40 is the increased amount of effort and money it takes just to maintain. I am already struggling with cholesterol, but I’m not giving up. I’m going to listen to Twisted Sister singing about how “We’re Not Gonna Take It” but it will be directed at Lipitor instead of my parents this time. It’s really funny how better health is very related to better finances, and I can’t help draw comparisons as I try to do better with both.
I was not blessed with generations of relatives who lived to be 100. Aside from my Grandma, who lived to the great age of 91, everyone dies around their mid 70’s, usually after a decade of pills, hospital visits, and not the quality of life I hope to enjoy.
However, I don’t ever remember a relative really putting up much of a fight other than to add a new prescription from the pharmacy. There wasn’t much giving up of fried food or sodium, and the only exercise I’ve seen is maybe jumping up from the couch while watching a Kentucky basketball game.
The Cholesterol Curse
The first time I ever had my cholesterol tested was at age 25 when I took my residency position with the federal government. You had to have a pretty thorough physical, and I was surprised to learn that my cholesterol was hovering just under 200, which is the high level of normal. My good/bad ratio was fine, so I never really paid much attention until last April when I had it checked again to find the total cholesterol was at 213. The ratio was still OK, but not great. The worst thing was that my triglycerides were at 233, which is certainly over the normal limit of 150. While this isn’t off the charts bad, I did not like the pattern.
First of all, I was mad. I don’t eat terribly, and I exercise a lot, so this was just not fair. After my little pity party, I realized that I can use my genetics as an excuse and continue to see my numbers rise, eventually going on medicines, and probably dying at age 75.
Or, I can do something about it.
My Plan For Lifelong Health
Cue the theme from Rocky now. Since last year, I’ve tried to eat even better, cut out more processed foods, and continue to exercise. I’ve never eaten eggs or much red meat, so I think it must be the carbs that turn to triglycerides in my system. I did a free cholesterol screening a couple of weeks ago at the health department to see where I stood.
I was very happy that my triglycerides are down to 168, and my good/bad ratio has improved, although my total cholesterol is still at 208, which I guess might just be normal for me. This is a huge improvement, but I am determined to do better.
There is a health fair in early May where I can get a full blood workup. I am determined to get the triglycerides below 150. I will do this by eating mostly vegetarian and exercising my butt off. Vegan veggie patties are delicious, even if they look a little green. I even did a three day juice cleanse last week that was not fun, but I am determined.
Good Health Equals Good Finances?
If my numbers are good, then I know what I have to do. I have to work twice as hard as someone without a bad genetic history. I might have to spend a bit more at the grocery to buy fresh produce instead of processed food. I know if I ever give up, my cholesterol and triglycerides will go through the roof. This is lifelong. I can’t say that I won’t ever eat chips or cookies again, but I am determined to beat my family history.
It’s funny how health is a ton like personal finance. John at Frugal Rules and I seem to share a similar thought pattern as he is going through some of the same issues that I am. If you sit back and do nothing, circumstances will take over. It’s easy to use a lousy economy or low wages as an excuse, just like I could blame my clogging arteries on family. It’s also easy to say that you’d rather enjoy life by eating what you want or buying what you want, but broke people or those dying of a heart attack don’t generally say they are super happy with the choices they made.
I also believe it’s really hard to concentrate on your health when your finances are in the toilet. Once that aspect is under control, you have other areas to put your energy into. I don’t think I ever even thought about my cholesterol when we owed so much to the credit card companies, and I bet the stress that comes with debt didn’t help my health very much either. I don’t think better health automatically equals better finances, but having the ability to buy more fresh organic things and concentrate on my health is a huge help at this point in my life.
I’m happy for those who don’t have to do much to stay healthy, just like I’m happy for those who are independently wealthy. The rest of us just have to work a bit harder for better health and finances. Here’s to hoping I’m still lapping people at age 90.
What health challenges are you facing? Have you used a circumstance beyond your control as an excuse not to do better?