Hello Old Age, Nice To Meet ‘Ya

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I know, I’m 67, soon to be 68, years old. But to this point I’ve never truly considered myself “old” in the normal sense of the word. And yeah, I know age is a state-of-mind, you’re-only-as-old-as-you-feel, insert-cliche-here. I’ve never felt old despite the evidence to the contrary.

With this recently uncovered health issue (systolic heart failure) now forcing limitations on me, I’ve come to accept that I can’t do ALL of the things I did in the past. When your doctor tells you, “heart failure”, and then you read “most patients have a 50% chance of surviving 5 years” it does give you pause.

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Systolic heart failure generally is caused by damage to the left ventricle, the chamber that pumps blood out of the heart. With systolic heart failure, the heart can not pump enough to push the blood out of the heart. A typical “ejection fraction” rate is 55%, mine is at a very low 18%. It seems it was caused by a viral infection that impacted my heart.

However, in my case it seems everything but the heart function is good. Lungs clear, kidney function good, blood work all good (well, a small cholesterol issue that 10 years ago was considered normal until Big Pharma decided to lower the standard in order to sell more pills), weight good, diet well under control. Even my heart, if it wasn’t for the damage to the left ventricle, is in really good shape with no blockages (really, no clogged arteries at all). It’s said that approximately 30% of all systolic heart failure patients nearly fully recover, and 40% see some recovery or at least stay the same. I’m going with the idea that, all things considered, my overall pretty darn good health will let me greatly beat those 5 years odds.

I’m also realistic enough to feel that something has changed, physically. I don’t have the stamina I have had in the past. I can no longer bound up and down stairs at will. Perhaps, with a good exercise program I can gain back some of the stamina and not be (seemingly) perpetually out of breath and exhausted.

Sheila and I are settling in to this new “normal” and re-adjusting some roles we have previously played. For example, I can’t just jump up and carry the heavy stuff anymore, a big change in behavior for me (I used to have a t-shirt that read “I’m not real smart but I can lift heavy things”). I need to really think about what I need from either upstairs or downstairs and make far fewer stair-climbing trips … it’s not that I can’t go up and down stairs, but if I do that 8 times in the course of an hour I’m pretty much shot for the rest of the day. I need to be better at planning things out.

For those who don’t really know me that well, that’s a huge lifestyle adjustment!

At least preliminarily, playing music has become increasingly more difficult, especially playing the double bass … it’s such a physical instrument and I just don’t currently have the stamina to play for longer than a few minutes … so far, electric bass seems easier to manage. I have a gig in a few weeks that will be a serious test of my ability to play with consistency.

For those who don’t really know me that well, THAT is a serious issue!

I’m calling you out, Old Age, directly daring you to try and slow me down further. If I’ve gotten to 67-almost-68 and have almost nothing wrong with me after a lifetime of not leading the most healthy lifestyle, with the exception of an out-of-the-blue bad ticker, I can do this.

Stay tuned …

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