Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hernias, hemorrhoids and high blood pressure

These are signs of aging, and I have them all. I'm 64 years old and I have to sign up for Medicare before my next birthday, but somehow I've never thought of myself as being old. I may think of myself as still being a young man but my body is beginning to find ways to remind me of my advancing age. When I look in the mirror I see someone who looks pretty young (but I can't see the bald spot on the back of my head) but the signs of my bodily decline are apparent.

For starters I'm shorter than I used to be. In my prime I stood about 5'11" tall; at my last physical I measured just a little over 5'8" - so when did I get short?! Happily my weight is about the same so at least I haven't porked up the way some guys do - and I haven't developed "man-boobs" so that's a plus.

The hemorrhoids have been around a while - they're probably my own fault as I used to like to read on the pot so I probably stayed there longer than I needed to and aggravated the situation. They're not especially troublesome so I can tolerate them if they don't get any worse but they still remind me that time marches on and all that kind of stuff.

The hernias are a more recent development and also not too much of a bother. When I first detetected them I thought they might be swollen glands in my groin which kind of worried me because some serious conditions that affect men my age can cause swollen glands (at least that's what my doctor told me a couple of years ago.) So I was somewhat relieved to learn that it's hernias, not some dread disease, causing those bumps and unless I do something to aggravate them they can just be left alone. That sounds to me like a pretty good reason not to do any heavy lifting, which is something I try to avoid anyway, so maybe my hernias are no problem either.

Then there's the medicine thing. It seems like old people all have to take a lot of pills; I'm up to 4 a day - nothing very serious, but still what's going on with my body that I need 4 different kinds of pills to keep everything in balance and working right? The latest addition to the list was for high blood pressure, which has been creeping up for a while. There have been strokes on both sides of my family - not the kind that mercifully kill you quickly but the ones that leave you disabled and dependent on others for your daily care, and that prospect terrifies me. Since high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke I guess one more pill a day is a small price to pay to reduce the risk - I may even make some "life-style" changes like exercising more and eating better to help lower my pressure. But seriously, what's up with all the pills?

So these are part of a long list of things that remind me every day that I may not be growing up but I am most certainly growing older, and I have reached an age that is not only past my prime but is indicated by a slow but inevitable decline in health and vitality. My health is still very good - almost excellent, in fact - and I think I am blessed with good genes for longevity as both of my parents lived into their eighties (but my dad had that stroke)so I am not complaining or worrying about my imminent demise. I am not a young man anymore, and I am most definitely OK with that. But still, if only I had known as a young man what I know now...

Oh, I almost forgot - there has been one major change for the better as a result of getting older (well that plus modern medicine.) I have worn glasses - really thick glasses - ever since I was a little boy. A little over two years ago I had surgery to remove cataracts from both eyes and now my distant vision is better than 20/20! I have to wear reading glasses (and for another $2500, not covered by insurance, they could have fixed that too)) but for everything more than an arm's length away I can see perfectly without glasses - this is truly a miracle of modern medicine!

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