The Red Flag I Neglected

The wake-up call came on March 8, 2018. I had spent the better half of that week terribly congested: my head felt two sizes larger than normal, I couldn’t breathe or hear well, and was speaking with a nasal tone. By that morning, it had become too much to ignore. I contacted my doctor to try to set up an appointment for the same day.

The receptionist said I could see a doctor that afternoon but she followed it up with the question I was dreading, “Are you an existing patient with us?”

I had been assigned this doctor three years ago when my previous doctor’s medical group stopped working with my insurance plan. I had not visited my new doctor even once since the switch was made. I was granted a 3:50 appointment but the visit would include drawing blood and an initial batch of tests they run for all new patients.

I arrived at the clinic and a nurse proceeded to draw blood even before I was finished with all the paperwork. After drawing blood, they confirmed my height and weight. I’m 5’9” and weighed in 214 pounds—the heaviest I had ever been. I knew then there would be further conversations about my weight but it was the next test results that came as a complete surprise.

The nurse sat me down, wrapped the elastic band around my right arm, and began to pump. An ideal blood pressure reading is 120/80 (Here is a great explanation of the two numbers). My reading came in at the 150/90 range—twice.

It wasn’t long after that test that two young doctors went into the room to talk to me. My congestion was the least of their concerns. They diagnosed and treated that quickly.

The rest of the visit revolved around my blood pressure and the red flag this represented. The doctors emphasized the need to decrease my alcohol and sugar intake. They also insisted I would have to exercise at least three times a week in order to chip away at the problem. Failure to change my current lifestyle, they said, could potentially lead to a heart attack or stroke.

The fear was real that evening as I left the doctor’s office. It had been just over a week since director Kevin Smith suffered a massive heart attack and lived to podcast about it. I had followed Smith’s career since the release of Clerks. The news of his ordeal had already made me wonder how close I was to facing a similar situation. Apparently, I was much closer than I originally thought.

I went home that night and planned out the necessary changes with the help of my very supportive wife. In the next few L.A. Noise posts, I will detail the progress as I strive to get to a healthier position in life. The act of writing about this process will serve as motivation. Los Angeles Noise is not becoming a fitness blog but it will now have a fitness section interspersed with posts about local food, sports, events, and all other things L.A.

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