My most youthful (and useful) organ

Heart with ECG line in background

Ah, to be young of heart!

Last week I had my annual physical. Between prescription renewals and other concerns that arise, my lovely family doctor rarely has the time to do routine maintenance with me. Last week we booked that time. She checked me out head to toe and we reviewed some test results. A few concerns arose, but I’m more focussed on the good news: my heart age is 39.That’s 11 years younger than my chronological age.  Now if my other organs would only hold out long enough, I could be around for a while.

I took those findings with a grain of salt, however. If I understood my doctor correctly, heart age is determined by two things: blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure. My blood pressure always runs low because I’m on medication to suppress it, in order to lessen the potential impact of my blood clot on my liver. So really, those drugs allowed me to cheat on this part of the test. In fact, while your normal may be 120/80, mine is often 80/40. In other words, I’m barely ticking. No wonder I move so slowly: my heart has to catch up with the rest of me.

As for my blood cholesterol levels, I could give myself all the credit: I eat a fairly healthy, mostly vegetarian diet. But I am far from a purist. I love to eat, and except for restricting my sodium intake, anything else goes. Okay, I rarely eat fried foods or cream sauces, but I do indulge in other ways. I am especially fond of sweets, and have never been known to turn down dessert. Nor dessert seconds, if they’re offered. Recent dietary findings on the ills of excessive sugar consumption have not quelled my intake one iota.

When I was initially diagnosed with polycythemia, I mistakenly did some internet research on the disorder. Of course, the majority of that research paralyzed me with fear, hence my decision not to use the internet to research medical issues EVER AGAIN. But the information was not all bad: one of the things I learned is that blood cholesterol runs low in people with polycythemia. Don’t ask me why, though; I don’t recall. If there was an explanation, I probably wouldn’t have understood.

But why diminish the positive findings? I’m just glad my heart is healthy. We can live easily without an appendix, I understand, or without a gall bladder–mine’s long gone–or, for some people, a spleen. We can even give a kidney to a stranger. I’m no medical doctor, but I imagine living without a heart would be a challenge. It was nice to hear that one of my organs is thriving. That and my brain, which appears to be largely intact despite last week’s fall.

Sure, there was some concerning news, which I’ll admit gets a little wearying, but I’ll spare you the details. My heart is glowing too bright with youthful pride for me to see that other stuff. I’ll just bask in the good news for now, okay?


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