I had gone for about 11 years without a physical exam. During that time I experienced what would surely be
called excellent health, all the while being blissfully unaware of my standing with Medical Science's stats and parameters.
Since I was not tested to determine if I was healthy (i.e. within the accepted ranges of "normal"), I had no doubts about
being healthy. Even despite being in my upper 60s to lower 70s in physical age during that time, I was
able to do just about anything that I could in my 40s. This included replacing my own wood fence in my back yard
(even digging 8 new post holes - by hand). It included replacing all the moulding in my home, refacing all my cabinets,
and hauling at least 500 stones up into my back yard, which was about 8 feet higher than the front, and building raised
So clearly I had plenty of energy.
Indeed, I continued to observe that many of my physical experiences seemed to actually improve with age, especially after I retired about 7 years ago – and the work-related stress gradually melted away. For example, all the muscle pain I experienced when I was younger was now gone, due to the anti-inflammatory effect of my plant-based diet along with the Omega-3 compounds in the fish oil which I take 3 times daily.
Nonetheless, in recent years I found myself being hounded by my insurance company with increasing urgency to be officially "sanctioned" by Medical Science. In other words I was urged to get a physical exam.
So I decided to do so in January 2022. Actually my main goal was to finally find out if I was taking the appropriate amount of B12 and D3.
Well, it promptly began to go downhill from there. The doctor diagnosed me with "iron-deficiency anemia". In her write-up she said "either GI losses that are occult vs low iron absorption/rate". And, she wanted me to get a colonoscopy, despite my age (76). Sigh. I would point out that every doctor that I have seen since 1995 has dinged me on low iron and borderline anemia (I have all my medical records and lab tests since 1995). One of them talked me into a colonoscopy in 2008 - completely normal results. It is likely that my habit of donating blood twice annually for 10 - 15 years through 2010 is the cause of the chronically low iron, Hemoblobin, and Red Blood Cell count. (These last two are markers for anemia.)
I said no to the colonoscopy. I might note that I talked to the gastroenterologist to whom she referred me, and he said that if I had low iron levels for that many years I "probably don't need a colonoscopy".
I took a follow-up physical exam in January 2023. During 2022 I did take a low-dose iron supplement - 18 mg, derived from iron-rich foods.
My "Ferritin" level went from 16.7 in 2022 to 24.5 in 2023 - a 50% improvement. The range of Ferritin, as stated by the lab, was 5 - 244 units, so I was clearly within that range, although my doctor still considered my 24.5 to be low.
She did include 4 additional iron tests in 2023, and I aced them all - at the midpoint or greater.
Nonetheless my Hemoblobin and Red Blood Cell counts were just under the minimum, just like they have been in all 9 lab tests since 1995 with a few exceptions. So she still wanted a colonoscopy, but would (reluctantly) settle for a stool sample test.
A note about these lab ranges:
They have apparently been raised somewhere between 2010 and 2022!
Hemoglobin used to be 13.0 - 17.0. Now it's 13.4 - 17.4. Mine was just 0.1 under the old minimum.
I might note that more than one site suggests that the range should be changed to 12.4 to 14.9 for older men, but many labs do not include that different range! My 12.9 score would have easily passed that minimum.
Red Blood Count used to be 4.1 - 5.7. Now it's 4.7 - 6.1. Mine would have (slightly) passed the old minimum.
Hematocrit (another anemia marker) used to be 37% - 49%. Now it's 38.9% - 51.5%. Mine would have easily passed the old minimum.
And further, the doctor found another stat for me to be concerned about. She asserted that my PSA (Prostate Specific
Antigen) was slightly elevated compared to 2022. It was 3.16 vs 1.93 (range is 0.1 - 4.0). So she wanted to do another
PSA test in 3 months.
I found myself agonizing for the next two weeks over these statistics about my physical form. Should I take the stool sample test? Its web site states that there is an increasing chance of false positives for older men, and expecially those over 75. I would be putting myself in a situation where I would be forced to get the colonoscopy! What about the sudden "requirement" to re-test my PSA in 3 months? Various articles point out that excessive exercise and/or sexual activity before the test will raise the levels. We had been visiting our kids during Christmas and I had begun - since the first of January - to do more exercise than usual to make up for the inactivity at the kids house. And, well, there might have been some of the other too!
Finally, after regaining my positive outlook about my health, I decided to cancel the 3 month appointment and simply schedule one more regular physical in 11 months. This would give me almost a year to to achieve a more impressive Ferritin level and to bring Hemoglobin/RBC levels up to "official" acceptance. I had discovered after some research that virtually all of the foods that are part of a healthful plant-based diet interfere with iron absorption! Lots of gluten, in all the whole grains. Phylates/polyphenols in nuts, seeds, legumes. Oxalates in greens, dark chocolate, nuts, teas, parsley. Even turmeric, which I was taking as a supplement with lunch and dinner, along with the iron supplement! So I will now take one iron supplement with my mid-morning "clem" (mandarin), which has vitamin C - and helps iron absorption. I will take another brand of iron supplement (which itself has some C) before dinner, and wait until after dinner to take the turmeric.
The goal is make myself "lab test compliant" (if possible) by the end of the year. Perhaps I might be "inspected, detected, and (hopefully not) rejected" by Medical Science.
So what's the point of all this? The point is that after ten years of extraordinary health and youth,
maintained in large part by positive affirmations to the Spirit of Existence - and confidence in that same Spirit - two physicals
suddenly placed me in a mode of worrying about the possibility of having colon cancer and prostate cancer!!
And what is "Worry"? Worry is a sensation of being not at ease in the gut, so that it interferes with pleasant eating. I can't take in the delightful food with the same ease that I normally would. I can't fall asleep in the usual 5 to 15 minutes - I didn't have the ease of sleep that I had grown used to. I found myself looking for something that would calm me down and restore the ease of living that I enjoyed before becoming embroiled in the quandaries of Medical Science.
The question then is: How much does it take before the lack of ease becomes dis-ease - disease?!?
Copyright © 2023 J.A.