Wellness: You’re On Your Own

Drowning In A Sea Of Poor Health Advice

wellness photograph showing half and half internal and external man

It’s A Family Affair

The issue is exacerbated for me given the less than stellar health record of my family. My mother died early from a raft of cardiovascular related issues and her mother died in her sixties from a stroke. My father died in his early seventies from a heart attack, his father the same. Issues such as smoking and obesity played a role, for sure. But nevertheless the genetic grim reaper is hanging around in the background for me.

I try to do the right thing. I’ve never smoked. I have tried to exercise on and off for most of my adult life. Mostly on and especially in the last dozen years when I rediscovered my love for cycling. I gave up alcohol completely a year ago. Wellness has forced its way high up my lifestyle agenda.

I do struggle with weight, you see several generations of my family and it’s clear why. As busy life makes it tougher. I dropped a lot of weight a couple of years ago by using a low carb, high fat diet. I drifted up 4kgs again this year, mainly because my bike remained firmly in the house and not on the road. But the issue is manageable and the motivation is high.

Time To Gather Health Data

There’s a world of good information, bad information, propaganda and plain bullshit out there in the age of seamless digital shouting at each other. We need to be careful. First, I’ll describe my attempts to establish what my health status really is. Then get into trying to establish how I kick it on further.

A very good doctor told me a man of my age should do four things to deal with the biggest risks. Get an annual prostate check. Have an annual skin cancer check. Look at the delights of a colonoscopy every five years and; have an annual ECG test for the heart and a CT scan each five years. “Do all of that, eat one pizza a week and not three pizzas. Live a good life.” A pretty clear wellness agenda for me.

I’ve done all of the above. The skin cancer one forced my hand a bit, I had a basal cell carcinoma removed a year ago and have just had the first annual check.

And Some More Data

Discussing it with the doctor, we thought that a reasonable level of fitness and banishing alcohol use had improved that number. He did comment that my focus on wellness was commendable. He sighed a little and wondered aloud what the reduction of burden on the NHS would be if more people focused. That’s not me humble bragging as an aside, I was sitting opposite a guy who had a touch of frustration at the absence of self care by many people.

I wanted to go further this year and know more about my heart. Was I walking around with a hand grenade inside me? I decided on a CT scan in a facility with a machine with a very low radiation dose. In this case, the radiation equivalent to what I would collect just going about my everyday life for a year. This gave me a calcium score of 24. Definite mild plaque. Possible artery narrowing.

So I underwent a further scan two days later, this time with iodine injected into my system, in order a full 3D image of the inside of the arteries could be assessed. This came out with positive news, there is mild plaque in two arteries but no narrowing of any sort. The rest of the arteries clear. For my age and family history, this was regarded as a win. The precaution was to up my statin dose.

What To Do With Your Wellness Data?

Various consultants and doctors had summed it up as: lose three kilograms, take a statin and lose dose aspirin every day for the next fifty years. That’s it. Very good consultants as an aside, regarded as some of the best in their field.

I was already on the three kilogram and cardiac health project through exercise and working with two very good coaches, an endurance exercise specialist and a strength and mobility specialist.

The Labyrinth World Of Diet

More recently I tried intermittent fasting, but with limited success. The limited success due to boredom. I enjoy eating. Waiting sixteen hours to eat again just bored me in the end. No I’m not a titan of Silicon Valley who sees time spent eating as time lost in conquering the digital world.

Low Carb Ain’t Easy

Looking back at both the LCHF and intermittent experiments. Successful in the former, as I achieved the target weight loss. In both cases, the data told me that I ate 10–15% fewer calories each day due to either protein-induced satiety or missing a meal. Give me all the arguments about rewiring my metabolism and those other lines of argument, but essentially fewer calories went into my mouth. Wellness improved by eating a little less.

Take Your Pick

I thought it might make sense to look for a book on what dietary interventions might help me. Page one on the search gave me: a vegan diet; a carnivore diet; a low carb high-fat diet; something called the Pioppi diet; a celery juice diet; Mediterranean diet; and low cholesterol diet. My favourite was called “The How Not To Die Cookbook” — getting to the point marketing 101 with that one. I could go on, that was a selection and there were more avenues to explore. I didn’t see a book that said “eat a balanced diet in moderation” because that’s too mainstream.

Now Take Your Medicine

My next action was to look at Dr Google’s widely available dispensary of gold plated information once more. I’m a schmuck apparently. Sucked in by the profit crazy pharmaceutical industry. I’m using a drug to lower cholesterol and cholesterol isn’t a problem. I’m going to suffer muscle pains, get dementia, increase my risk of disease. The worrying part of all this is some commentators are medical professionals and professors. I’m an innocent and if a doctor or professor speaks, I tend to listen. By now my head was spinning. Who to believe?

Diet And/Or Exercise?

My final port of call was exercise. Everyone agrees exercise helps health. Reduces obesity, lowers risk of diabetes, improves cardiovascular health, etc. So all good. Not so fast. A book and a series of articles informed me that pushing too hard into endurance sport has serious risks to heart health. I give up. I don’t really, I just wanted to express my frustration by this point.

The case for exercise helping health is strong and I don’t think there’s a lot of pushback there. Start doing ultramarathons and the like and you might see some increase in risk. That level of training is never going to trouble me, so I’m ok.

Make A Health Decision And Own It

I’m known for experimenting with a lot of aspects of my interests and will tend towards trying something new or taking a reasonable risk. In this case, I’m going with the people with extensive training and experience and will take my statin. What a cop-out I am. I’m going to eat a rounded diet with a balance of food groups.

I’m not going to feature on the cover of Caveman Quarterly; but I’ll still be a regular at the local steakhouse. I’m going to exercise at least four times a week. That’s my plan. Weight of evidence, accepting there is no secret. There’s an undercurrent of our human fear of death and people forming groups and helping soothe each other’s fears. But the bottom line is none of these fads have any longevity that can produce any proof any particular thesis works. Imagine basking in the warm glow of a Facebook LCHF group and finding out all too late it doesn’t work.

Wellness — Good Luck

Originally published at stephenmoon.com.

CEO of performance nutrition company. Executive coach. Startup investor. Generally curious. London based. stephenmoon.com