Tagged: Health

That time of year again

It looks like I need to do this, once again


I hereby commit to not purchasing any products containing tobacco for one year, covering the period from UTC 12PM, 15th May, 2013 to UTC 12PM, 15th May 2014.


Should I break the Commitment within the designated time period, I hereby promise to publicly acknowledge this lapse and donate AU$1000 to the Liberal Party of Australia* within 48 hours, after which the Commitment will be terminated or renewed at my discretion.

Also, I finally donated that $500 I promised on successful completion of the first compact, choosing Médecins Sans Frontières as the beneficiary.

As you were.


* In Australia the Liberal Party are the conservative jerkwads who court the reactionary vote and think climate change is something invented by the left to undermine good ol’ fashioned capitalism. They’re not as bat-shit crazy as the GOP in the US but who the hell is? It’s unfortunate in that I would otherwise describe myself as a liberal but it’s not worth it here because you have to explain you mean “small el” rather than “large el”

Nicotine Therapy – Day 1

A recent flare-up of my ulcerative colitis has refused to subside, and so I’ve decided to try something I only recently ruled out. Studies have shown that nicotine tends to reduce symptoms and aid in the remission of the disease, and so after much consideration I’ve decided that rather than upping my dosage of my usual medication (azathioprine) I’m going to try augmenting my treatment with nicotine patches. As an ex-smoker this is tricky since it means reintroducing a drug into my system that I’ve been trying for years to reduce my dependency on, but at this point I think the potential benefits may be worth it.

Both UC and azathioprine have the common side-effect of fatigue– which may go some way towards explaining why I’ve been feeling so crushingly tired so much of the time. Sleep is my favorite pastime right now. And so the idea of upping the dose doesn’t really appeal, even if it weren’t for the other risk factors that azathioprine brings (like massively increased risk of UV induced skin cancer which is something you don’t want when you live in Australia).

As I am of the large percentage of UC sufferers who developed the condition after I first quit smoking, it seems like a good bet that there may be some benefit to getting nicotine back into my system. Much as I’d like to simply take up the old habit once again, a more sensible (if less satisfying) option is to administer the drug via transdermal patches. I’m starting on 10.5mg per day and plan to maintain this for 2 weeks before reviewing progress.

My experience so far (24 hours after commencement):

  • Some initial light headedness and nausea. To be expected, and nothing too bothersome.
  • Enhanced alertness. This was my other reason for choosing this path. I am hoping the nicotine will help counteract my general fatigue, as my work requires some ability to concentrate.
  • Really really vivid dreams, bordering on lucid, which is incredibly rare for me. When I woke this morning it was after noting that I was stuck in a dream (observing that writing on signs would change every time I looked away) and so I simply walked away from the situation I was in. There was a disconcerting Vanilla Sky moment where it looked like I might have to jump off a rooftop to end the dream, but fortunately I managed to wake before this was necessary. I was quite relieved to find that I was in fact still safe in bed and not teetering on top of a bookcase.


Better Numbers

Well it looks like cutting back on alcohol and (to a lesser degree) sugar and carbs has had some positive effects.

My weight is around 97kg right now, about 6 kg less than it was in July, and my blood pressure is now close to normal levels at roughly 125/85.

Blood tests show my cholesterol and triglycerides are back down to where they were in 2010. Still too high, but heading in the right direction. Liver function is also improved.

The wild card in all this is a fairly recent recurrence of my long dormant ulcerative colitis, which I’m not at all happy about (although to be honest it’s probably helping me keep the weight off right now).  The medication I took to deal with it last time seems far less effective this time around, so I’ve no idea how long I will have to put up with it.

Current stats:

Weight: 97.2 kg
Waist: 106 cm
Fat: 23.2%
Muscle: 36.3%
Blood Pressure: 125/85


Diet Holiday Snap

I recently went on a week long road-trip with my lovely other, and decided to not bother with the whole diet thing. Can you guess what happened?

Yep, it set me back a week. Even though I thought I would at worst be not losing more weight. I seem to be back on track now, and although I’ve been very slack about my food diary I am keeping in mind the thought “don’t eat too much, dummy!”, which so far seems to be working. The key for me is regular weigh-ins I think.


Here’s a little graph of my weight over the last few weeks, from the MyFitnessPal iPad app.

According to this I am on a trajectory to lose about 625 grams per week (roughly 1.4 pounds). Within 2 weeks I should no longer be technically obese! And if I stick with it I should reach my target weight of 82 kg in a mere… 26 WEEKS! Oh great, just six more months of being pissed off and hungry all the time.

I say 82 kg because my ideal weight range according to standard BMI calculations is 62 – 82 kgs. Which to be honest seems a bit ridiculous, and I know BMI is overly simplistic, but I may as well pick a target. It’s about what I weighed 6 years ago (shortly after being deathly ill, funnily enough).

Fewer Voices

With my new diet and exercise regime, I am doing a lot of walking lately. The fact that it’s a beautiful time of year and I live on the coast makes it fairly easy to do this.

My usual habit when walking or driving is to listen to podcasts, but I am starting to find myself running out of new things to listen to, what with the extra time spent out. One option is to go find some more podcasts to listen to, but I’m starting to think there is a better one: Listen to fewer podcasts.

I’m so accustomed to hearing a perpetual stream of interesting people saying interesting things, that I think I might have lost touch with my own thoughts. On a recent long drive I accidentally started playing music rather than podcasts, and was surprised to notice how peaceful it was to drive without listening to people talk. My mind went to a whole new place, filling the vacuum with original thoughts, and I had all sorts of fun and interesting ideas in a way I haven’t for ages.

So from now on I’m going to try to make sure that I reserve for myself some proper thinking time, where I let my mind wander instead of perpetually distracting it with everyone else’s ideas. It doesn’t mean I’m magically going to get more work done, but it does make random inspiration far more likely.

Health metrics

Since the weight hasn’t been falling away quite as fast as I’d hoped, I’ve decided to get a bit more serious about it and set up a profile at MyFitnessPal (ugh what a terrible name!) as recommended to me by Michael T, who apparently used to be something of a fatty with high blood pressure himself :)

Ideally I’d like to drop another 19kg (at the rate I’ve been going this would take another year at least).

I’ll be using it to track diet and exercise, as well as weight, blood pressure, waist measurements, and fat and muscle percentages as recorded by my new cheap-ass bathroom scales. These last two are unlikely to be reliable numbers except for tracking change, and may indicate why I haven’t lost a lot of weight so far. According to these readings my body fat % has steadily decreased in the last few weeks from about 25.5% to 24.3%, with a corresponding increase in muscle percentage. So that’s promising!

Current stats:

Weight: 101 kg
Waist: 112 cm
Fat: 24.3%
Muscle: 35.9%
Blood Pressure: 140/95


More crappy numbers

So I just opened the results of my last round of blood tests ordered by my GP, and it turns out all the important numbers that you want to keep low have jumped. What a shit!

My cholesterol, already high (for some reason I remembered it as being ‘on the high side’) has jumped to 8.1 (equivalent to 313 mg/dL in common US units).

That my blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides are all up so substantially from less than 2 years ago is a bit of a shock, since I’m about as fat now as I was then and eat roughly the same. The only really obvious change is my transition from occasional drinker to regular drinker, largely as a substitute swapped in for that other nasty I’ve given up, cigarettes.

I guess perhaps I may have been a little too regular with the booze (liver function tests bear this out) so that’s something I’m reducing permanently, but I’m still totally pissed off that I gave up the smokes more than a year ago and all I’ve got to show for it so far is this really crummy medical report.

Better BP Numbers

So it’s been a week since crazy high blood pressure day, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve not seen anything like those terrible readings again. It’s still too high, hovering around 145/95, but seems to be gradually falling, most probably due to three main factors:

  • No booze, almost (I’ve had 2 beers in the last 7 days)
  • No coffee, almost (I’ve had 1 coffee in the last 7 days)
  • Daily walking, almost (walked at least an hour for 5 out of last 7 days)

As doctors often say, this is not rocket science. Still, it’s surprisingly easy to be lax about one’s own health.

What the numbers mean

The two numbers are the upper and lower bounds of blood pressure in the arteries at the same level of the heart (ie same height above the ground). A typical machine measures these by inflating a cuff around the upper arm until all blood flow is completely stopped, then slowly releasing the cuff pressure until blood just begins to squeeze through. At this point the pressure in the cuff is recorded as the maximum (systolic). The cuff pressure is then allowed to continue dropping until the blood moves freely again through the artery (not in squirts), and it’s at this point that the minimum pressure (diastolic) is taken.

The units are mmHg, or mercury millimeters, which is a hangover from the old devices which used mercury in glass tubes to indicate pressure. 145 mmHg is the same as 2.8 psi, which doesn’t sound nearly as scary (being way less than standard tyre pressures of around 30 psi), although in theory at this pressure if I nicked an artery it would still be enough to spurt blood up to 6 feet into the air!


Not the best day today, since a regular visit to my GP revealed that my blood pressure is hovering around the batshit side of crazy. Of course this new knowledge has not done me any favours in the ‘reducing stress’ department.

The initial measurement was taken this morning in my doctor’s office, and I assumed then it had to be a temporary aberration, but a reading I just did at home (12 hours later) shows pretty much the same result. If it’s still like this tomorrow I’m heading back to the medical center to ask for something to bring it down.

This scares the crap out of me, but I post it here because getting it off my chest might help me to not obsess about it as I try to sleep tonight.

UPDATE: 24 hours later and I’m getting readings approaching 150/100 (My peak reading yesterday was 173/127). Hoping to see it fall further.

Make a rice sock

When I have a cold (as I do now) I find that applying heat to the back of my neck seems to bring some relief from congestion, and the easiest way to do this is to fill a sock with uncooked dry rice, tie a knot in it, heat it in the microwave for a minute and hold it in place with a hoodie.*

You can reheat the rice sock multiple times, and the smell is quite comforting. It can also be good for cramps and is a lot less bulky than a hot water bottle.


* obviously make sure the temperature isn’t too hot before placing it against your bare skin

Ocular Redux

It’s almost a year since I had my eye zapped, and unfortunately the regression has been stronger than expected. So at least there’s a reason I’ve been having trouble the last month or so focusing on screen text. Most troubling is the return of my astigmatism, which means I can’t just get by with cheap reading glasses like I had hoped.

I have an appointment with the surgeon lined up and there we will decide if a second round is going to help much. If not, then it’s back to prescription glasses for me :(

UPDATE: After seeing the surgeon it looks like it’s not as bad as I thought, as part of the problem was some scarring/inflamation of the cornea which can be treated with eyedrops, so I probably won’t have to get more lasers shot at my eyeball just yet.