Thursday, July 22, 2010

And In the End He'll Always Be A Numbers Guy

Reality gained another toehold here in our semi-safe haven of a home.  I think that makes six now.  Six toeholds, I mean.  I believe that you get handle reality any way you damn well please.  So in my imagination, reality is required to have all ten toes and its prehensile tail wrapped firmly around the branch of your life and be hanging upside like a sleeping possum before you have to accept it.

And I don't care what Reality thinks. This isn't Reality's blog.

Yesterday, MathMan learned that, despite his best efforts to reduce and manage via diet and exercise, his cholesterol numbers have remained stubbornly high.  He is now a card-carrying member of the Zocor Club.

He is ever so pissed about it.

Last year, during his annual check up, his doctor used the dreaded phrase that begins with the words medically and technically and ends with --ese.  While the doctor meant well and, like lots of bad people of yore, was merely doing his job, this information and the specific use of that phrase cut MathMan deeply.

In response, he became an exercise machine.  He took up running and weight training.  He took on a greenish tinge from eating all those salads.  He's consumed enough steel cut oats to cleanse the Gulf.  Lots of times, when I accuse of him of wasting time on Facebook, he's actually poring over information on

The overall results were spectacular.  He shed twenty pounds, ran a (something)K race and now has what is commonly-referred to around here as Lisa-like blood pressure.  See, I was like a vampire before being a vampire became cool.  I have the kind of numbers that spur confused doctors to retake my blood pressure themselves.  The midwife who delivered the kids used to hold a mirror under my nose to ensure I was breathing.  She didn't care that she couldn't see my reflection.  She just wanted to see that silvery glass fog!

So MathMan has some seriously positive items in the "win" column.  I'm incredibly proud of him.  He looks better, feels better and he's staved off some of the worst aspects of heredity - high blood pressure and heart disease.  But genetically, he's been unable to beat the high cholesterol bugaboo.

He hasn't said much about the one thing I know he's thinking even if he doesn't say.  You don't live with a person for 537 years without gaining a little insight. Or, if you do, shame on you.  Here's a karate chop for being daft and self-involved.

The truth is, MathMan's parents - both of them - passed away before the age of sixty.  His father died of a freak aneurysm while he was being hospitalized for something else having to do with a series of heart attacks he had starting in, I believe, his late thirties.  Born in the mid-twenties, he'd suffered damage to his heart during a childhood bout of Scarlet Fever.

We don't know what killed MathMan's mother because there was no autopsy performed, but she died in her sleep one night after feeling ill.  There are still bad feelings, I think, about the fact that he doesn't know what ultimately killed her.  She was both an alcoholic and borderline diabetic.  Looking back at the photos taken between 1988 when we married and 1992 when she died, it's clear that she was ill.  She lost of a lot of weight and her hair had lost its sheen.  Sadly, it was so gradual, she was so stubborn, already a widow and her whole family was pretty wrapped up in their own lives.  No one noticed until it was too late.

So I don't think any of this is far from his mind now that MathMan has been given the word - some things can't be dealt with through diet and exercise.  As we get on, we are going to have to make little concessions to Big Pharma.

Damn it.

Last evening we made a foray into the grocery store.  It took us four and a half hours because MathMan was more like Rain Man.  He stopped and pulled random things off the shelves and read their nutritional content.  Oreos, potato chips, frozen Skyline Chili, Krispy Kreme Donuts, butter.

He was definitely reassuring himself that by forgoing most of those items, he'd been doing the right thing.  Yes indeed, they did have very high numbers.  Four hours in, I finally lost my patience.

"Honey, let's go.  You don't even eat Scrapple."

"I know, but look at the cholesterol count.  Holy shit."

Like that.  And then we forgot the stupid cat food on top it.

So now every decision I make about food prep is fraught with suspicion.  She's serving cheeseburgers and french fries.  She's trying to kill me!   She's making meat loaf!  She's trying to kill me!  She brought home some ice cream from the store.  She's trying to kill me!

It's more likely that I'm trying to kill me, but right now his perspective is a little skewed.

Those of you who know me on Facebook might have seen that I'm trying to convince him that we need to drink more red wine, not less.  He just rattles his long list of Things You Need to Know About This Medication at me and shakes his head.

"Besides.  I'm not going to enable your alcoholism like my father did with my mother's."

Oh.  I see how it is now. 

Time for me to go fry some bacon.....


  1. There is a reason all those Lipitor ads show skinny people -- genetics will trump diet and exercise every time.

    I will keep my fingers crossed for you guys that Mathman doesn't suffer one of more unpleasant common side effects of anti-cholesterol meds: killer flatulence.

  2. Zocor will get his numbers down. I guarantee it.

  3. I feel for MathMan. It's a bitch making concessions to big pharma.

  4. All my skinny siblings have higer numbers than big old me - genetics are wierd.

    Sometimes the pharma people do good.

  5. Well, you can tell Mathman from me that it's not worth worrying about, wasting his precious time now anxious about that Big Elephant in the room. My Dad's dad died at 48 of a heart attack, and I think for a long time it hung over Dad's head, whether he'd follow suit -- but he lived a lot healthier lifestyle than his father (who smoked, ate the way they did back then, and drank a lot), and he's in his 60s now, getting ready to retire next week, and still going strong. I think the early death of a parent can feel like a prediction, in an emotional way, and yet it really means nothing.

    Still, none of us is promised the next day, and every minute is a gift. Maybe that's the secret benefit to dwelling on our own mortality, that we notice that gift more often. :)

  6. High cholesterol runs in my family -- sometimes it's just genetic and there's nothing you can do. It's a bitch, but better to take a pill and have a far greater chance of living a long life than not.

  7. 'And then we forgot the stupid cat food...'

    Cat food has low cholesterol? Damn, where's the can opener?


  8. Oatmeal three times a week helped my sister drop her cholesterol numbers. Maybe that will help MathMan?

    I'm stealing the Lost Woman joke from one of your earlir posts, btw.

  9. LOL! I loved the end of this post. You fry up that bacon, girl!! *grin* And red wine is good for you, doesn't he know that?? :)

    Also, when you said "every decision I make about food prep is fraught with suspicion," that is totally what Iwanski is like when I cook, too--only he's more paranoid about germs and salmonella than cholesterol. :)

    I hope the drugs help Mathman's cholesterol level go down significantly!!

  10. I loved the post. Especially the bacon. If my wife ever wanted to kill me, that would do it. But I would die with a smile on my face. I might go home and fix some when I get off of work. And just to be safe, I will wash it down with red wine.

  11. Genetics is a huge factor. I lucked out and have much higher than average hdls (good cholesterol) thanks to grandpa. As do my mother and aunt, but not everyone else in the family. That said, I knew someone who was on Lipitor (I believe) at a very young age b/c his father died of a heart attack in his 50s and his numbers were high. So, since he didn't like wine, he drank one glass of grape juice (concord) a day for a few months. His cholesterol number dropped over 20 points. Something to consider. Good luck to Mathman.

  12. I've passed out more cholesterol meds in my career than Mathman will ever take in his life. (I was just following orders, doctors' orders.) I remain skeptical of them, though.

    Too often doctors "treat the numbers" rather than treat what's happening with the patient clinically. I've seen patients with rhabdomyolysis and/or liver failure caused by statins. Y'see, the way they lower cholesterol by blocking how the liver handles fats can sometimes damage the liver.

    I'm not saying don't take them, but read up on the symptoms of rhabdo, especially the muscle-achey ones, and be aware if he feels them. For people with diabetes, cholesterol meds are crucial, because they're doubly-disposed to heart attacks through bad fat metabolism. But if he sticks with exercise, healthy eating, moderate red wine or grape juice, you gotta ask yourself "Do the risks outweigh the rewards with this med?"

  13. Can't he simply harness the awesome power of algebra to defeat this nefarious enemy?

    Stop cooking bacon in front of the poor man. Let your readers eat it so you all don't have to.

  14. He's spot-on, Grrrl. Seventy beats sixty, even if it ain't eighty. Moving in the right direction is never wrong.

    And if you follow him, you might even stick around longer, to our collective benefit.

    Hey, fat is fun, but it's fatal. I gave up sugar years ago,and cut way down on fats, and while it was hard in the short run, it's nothing in the long run.

    And that's the race I'm running.

    So add some stair-work to that heavy bag, and eat salad 'till you shit green.

    Because, you know, we love you.


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