Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Year = Fresh Starts on Many Fronts

The start of a full work week (or what passes for one in semi-retirement) in a new year can make you feel like you have hopped on a treadmill set on high speed. There are so many appointments to keep and new appointments to be made. However, it also is a time of renewal and opportunity for constructive change.

At our first Mended Hearts meeting of the year, we ran into an unexpected challenge. A meeting of hospital staff was going full-tilt in the room reserved for our monthly meeting. I was told someone from "the federal government" had come to address the local personnel -- not exactly an unexpected occurrence at this time of uncertainty about implementation of the new health care law (but not a top-priority event of which we had been informed). So we were shunted at the last minute to a conference room in the Cardiac Rehabilitation department. It is a room designed for about a dozen participants. We had more than twice that number of folks, a few of them in wheelchairs.

Everyone stayed in good humor, though, and we had a friendly meeting with an excellent speaker on "sepsis" -- your body's reaction to serious infection -- and good discussions of upcoming activities. Afterwards, we enjoyed a tasty lunch, compliments of the hospital cafeteria, which dishes up the finest cooking I've ever encountered in a hospital. I had the stuffed pork chop, brussels sprouts, and scalloped potatoes -- delicious! I managed to fit the vittles into my allotted Weight Watchers points, something else that is new to me. (I am averaging a 1.7-pound per week loss so far since I signed up in mid-December, so I am happy with how this is going.)

Perhaps my best fresh start has been with a new doctor (chosen freely, not because of any health-plan changes). I had to change one of my Type 2 meds because of price, and she quickly noted that I had maxed out on dosages. So she cut the dosage of one of my meds, given that my A1C number was decent. Following up with an e-mail, I asked her if I could try omitting my statin med, given that my cholesterol numbers are near-perfect (and that the statin may be causing muscle aches and pains). She said yes, and also agreed to my taking a whirl at dropping an acid reflux med after I expressed concern that it may cause a drop in magnesium levels. Finally, I pointed out that my multivitamin includes B-12 and so wondered if I really need to continue taking a stand-alone B-12 supplement at something like 16,000 times the daily requirement. She agreed; the multivitamin will be plenty.

I love the trend. My previous doctor, while attentive to my bloodwork numbers, was quick to increase dosages and add new medicines with the slightest uptick (along the line of one-tenth of 1 percent) in my stats. As a result, I believe I had entered the danger zone for being over-medicated. These powerful medicines interact in ways that may not always be fully understood. The side-effects (such as increased ringing in the ears) can start out-weighing the good.

With the online Weight Watchers for Men as my personal assistant, I now aspire to improve my eating habits, up my exercise, and gradually lose weight to the point that I may be able to continue, with the approval of my new doctor, to stop medicines no longer needed. Therefore, although life may be hectic, it is also good midway through the first month of the New Year.

                                                    © Robert G. Holland  2014

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