You may recall my recent adventures in the machine that is Western medicine, an experience that left me despairing about the oversized role fear and numbers play in that mechanism. Well, the results from all those tests are in and my despair has now turned into what can only be characterized as happy confusion.
To briefly recap: A few days after undergoing my first thorough physical exam in a quarter century, the highlight of which was watching the doctor’s eyes grow wide at my blood pressure reading, I submitted to another, less intense, check-up at the Life Time club two floors down from my office. In both instances, a friendly person in hospital scrubs drew some blood for lab tests.
Last week, I had a chance to review the results from each of those episodes and could only conclude that I’m a healthier guy when I’m not sitting in a doctor’s office.
At the clinic: 211/95
At the club: 136/87
As I reported earlier, the doctor offered to put me on medication for hypertension. Nine days later at the club, my blood pressure was judged to be normal.
At the clinic: 157.5 lbs.
At the club: 154.3 lbs.
The gravitational pull in St. Louis Park must be stronger than in Highland Park. Just a theory.
At the clinic: 114 mg/dL
At the club: 111 mg/dL
I’m told that you want to stay under 100 mg/dL on this one, which I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do, no matter where my blood is drawn. I’d blame the donuts, if I ever ate donuts, which I don’t. Could be stress-related, I’ve also been told. If donuts were shown to reduce stress, I’d have a real conundrum.
At the clinic: 266 mg/dL
At the club: 242 mg/dL
The doctor thinks this is too high (should be under 200 mg/dL), but that’s been a source of some controversy. (See this piece in EL.) The report I received from the club-based check-up did not list a recommended level, focusing instead on the ratio between total cholesterol and HDL (AKA “bad”) cholesterol.
Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
At the clinic: 266/86 or 3.1:1
At the club: 242/74 or 3.3:1
You could call this a wash, I suppose, though I’m going with the overall lower levels at the club, because it validates my argument. In either case, it’s well below the recommended 4.4:1 ratio.
At the clinic: 46 mg/dL
At the club: 62 mg/dL
These guys are a prime indicator of arteriosclerosis, a fact I first became aware of 45 years ago when my dad had his first major heart attack. You want to stay under 149 mg/dL on these, I’m told. The fact that I scored better at the clinic is simply the exception that proves the rule.
The takeaway for me is pretty clear: The key to a healthy, happy future is to avoid doctors as much as possible. And this is not just my own particular bias. There’s actually some empirical evidence to bolster my claim:
- In 1976, doctors in Los Angeles County went on strike for a month. In doing so, they refused to treat minor ailments or perform elective surgery. The mortality rate in L.A. County hospitals during that month declined by 18 percent.
- Last year, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed mortality rates in teaching hospitals when cardiac specialists were away attending conferences. Researchers found that “high-risk patients with heart failure and cardiac arrest” who were hospitalized when these specialists were unavailable had a lower 30-day mortality rate than when these guys were on the job.
Coincidence? Maybe, but the more I think about my recent foray into our healthcare machinery the more I’m convinced that I’m a lot better off when I’m taking care of myself.