Am I Healthy?
With a flood of conflicting messages and metaphors, how do you know?
Apparently, I am not healthy. I am overweight, and while my A1C has never crossed the threshold into pre-diabetes, it has definitely flirted with the idea. My cholesterol is sometimes okay, sometimes not. I have high blood pressure (which may be genetic) and hypothyroidism (which is definitely genetic, thanks Mom). I have sleep apnea, and what appears to be the beginning of Meniere’s disease, although it could be something completely different. The doctors have sort of given up figuring that last one out.
On the other hand, I’m not extremely overweight, there’s just a moderate extra level of padding. I walk the dog a lot, I swim, I boogie board, I hike, I go to yoga (but admittedly not often), and when my Pilates instructor gets back from Africa, I’m going to start that up again too. I don’t eat junk food that often (but I do eat it) and I’ve basically stopped drinking. I’ve never gotten COVID, despite being extremely reckless over the last two years. I got a colonoscopy last year, and was told that I had an “exceptionally healthy colon,” whatever that means. Except for a bout of shingles four years ago after a stupid breakup, and mono in college, I’ve never really been sick at all, other than the same seasonal viruses we all get.
So I am I healthy? I think the medical community would probably say I’m not, given its adherence to numbers (weight, A1C, cholesterol). And yet people whom the medical community would definitely uphold as pictures of health are dropping dead, or nearly dying. A few weeks ago, a thirty-seven-year-old Scottish mountain biker suddenly died in his sleep of cardiac arrest. Bob Harper, celebrity fitness trainer, had a heart attack at 52. The medical community would have likely considered them extremely healthy, because they did healthy things. But Harper had a hereditary condition that increased the “lipoprotein(a) in his blood” so by that metric, he wasn’t actually healthy at all.
But we view Harper as healthy, because that hereditary condition was not his “fault.” On the other hand, if he were a couch potato without a hereditary condition, any health problems would be his “fault.” Moral failings and so-called failures of discipline are so inextricably linked to our current ideas of…