Chip and Elizabeth: Our health, our story

For nearly 60 years, I was healthy. Completely healthy. Yes, a few pounds overweight, but otherwise my doctor’s favorite phrase to send me off after a physical was: See ya next year!

For physical after physical, year after year, my blood pressure (normally 115/75) was spot on, my blood work came back normal, my oxygen levels were great. Heart, kidneys, lungs, thyroid, all good. In other words, my body was doing what it was supposed to do.

Then, just like that, things began to happen. In the fall of 2019, my physical didn’t go as well. On the day I went in, my blood pressure was 145/101, my oxygen level had dropped to 92 and I was tired, fatigued.

I was in denial and frustration for a few months while they dug deeper. We still don’t know what is causing the higher blood pressure, but my doctor seems to think something else is the culprit and once that is corrected, the BP will go back to its usual.

They found a couple of other things, but here’s the bottom line: I’m not good with that. I haven’t hit the “acceptance” stage of the process, but I know there are things that I can do. Elizabeth lost a kidney to cancer last summer and that has resulted in life changes for her as well. She has “pre-existing” conditions in that cancer has been in her family for generations.

We aren’t waiting for the next step or the next crisis or the next diagnosis. Here’s what we’ve done.

  • We went vegan. After one of our doctors suggested we watch the movie Game Changers (available on Netflix or YouTube), we stopped eating meat completely. Shortly thereafter, I cut out dairy and eggs, which resulted in a tremendous uptick in my oxygen levels and improved my sinus conditions.
  • We exercise. Elizabeth works out hard every day. I ride my stationary bike daily that gets my heart rate up to 170+. We recently worked in the yard for a few days last week and learned that’s a good source of exercise!
  • Water! We each have a measurable water bottle and try to get half our body weight (in ounces of water) daily.
  • We are intentional about our sleep. We compare sleep scores on our Fitbit almost daily, but try to get to bed early when we can. The goal is seven hours/night, occasionally longer.
  • We are watching our weight. This is imperative. It will happen if you eat right and exercise. I’m dropping pounds — and inches — in recent weeks and months. Someone saw me on Facebook recently and wondered how many pounds I’ve lost. My answer: Not enough, yet.
  • We listen to our doctor. This is vital, you should not proceed without his/her knowledge and insight. In addition to our personal doctors, we also have friends and family who are doctors and we regularly compare notes with them. Forget Dr. Google, he’ll wear you out!

Today, we are both feeling better generally and our vitals are well within range. Elizabeth’s resting heart rate is in the low-60s and mine is in the low-70s. My blood pressure is quite manageable with a small dose of medicine, but my doctor told me recently he may cut that in half if I continue to progress.

Moreover — while we still have our conditions — we aren’t considered in the danger zone for underlying conditions with the coronavirus. Still, we have been very careful and diligent, staying home and listening to leaders.

You don’t have to be as radical as we have been in response to our medical situations, but you can take steps to improve your situation.

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