Health Age 55, actual age 37

I took a health assessment this morning that I found while looking for some forms for my mom.  It was a VA health assessment and was very in-depth as far as numbers, activity levels, health habits, and other aspects of life went. I figured I would go through it and see what it came up with.  It was quite a lengthy process, but I finally got a health report as a result.  My Health Age is 55, based on the information I gave in the questionnaire, which doesn’t surprise me at all.  I’m chronologically only 37 years old, though.  It bothers me that I’m in the shape I’m in.  The report showed my percentage of risk for certain common illnesses and conditions and made recommendations on how I can improve my health so that I can lower my Health Age number and live a healthier lifestyle.

The first and most consistent recommendation was to lose weight.  My BMI is 48.1 and it should be no higher than 27, since I’m muscular.  I know I’m overweight and I’m doing things to try to combat that, like climbing, biking, walking, and changing my eating habits and diet.  It said that losing “just” 13 lbs (5% of my bodyweight) would help.  I don’t know about you, but 13 lbs doesn’t just fall off of anybody that I know of!  I understand what it was getting at, though.  I’m honestly aiming for losing 1 lb/wk, and 2 lbs/wk would be fantastic, but that doesn’t have to happen.  Slow and steady wins the race.  I’m going to get back down to 124 lbs.  I know I am.  It’s just going to take a while.

The second and equally consistent recommendation was to get 5 hours of moderate exercise and/or 2 hours and 30 minutes of vigorous exercise in per week.  I consider my climbing to be moderate-to-vigorous exercise, depending on how hard I’m working.  I try to do that every day, although it’s been tough lately.  I go walking with my nephew and my mom for 60 minutes at least three times per week, and that’s moderate exercise.  Bike riding, which I’m getting back into, is moderate-to-vigorous exercise and I get that in when it’s not raining, which has been about twice a week for 20 minutes.  So I could be doing much better on the exercise front and I will be.  I’m going to make sure of that!

As far as the diet component goes, the recommendations were less red meat, more lean white meat, more fish, more whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, some nuts, less processed food, less sodium, less sugar, and less solid fat (like butter), etc.  We all know these things.  We hear them all the time.  It’s hard to avoid a lot of this stuff that you’re supposed to avoid, though, even in healthy prepared meals.  I’m a horrible cook, which means I’m limited to simple things.  That’s not a bad thing.  I hate cooking.  That’s the problem.  I don’t like the wait time when cooking my own food.  In all honesty, most of the “bad snacking” happens while I’m waiting for the “good” food to cook!!!  It’s good that I’m stuck with simple things, though, because I can’t get all crazy with a whole bunch of stuff if I’m limited to the basics of boiling water and stirring occasionally, or setting the oven at a certain temperature and timing how long a piece of fish or chicken bakes.  Me, caveman…

The third solid recommendation was to lower my stress levels.  It was a large section of the report and emphasized how it was the third element in the trifecta of weight, exercise, and stress level that was working against me as far as this Health Age number goes.  Stress can greatly impact this number and my attempts in other areas to combat the effects of poor health and aging.  Well, I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  What can I say.  I’m seeing my psychiatrist twice a week, taking my medications as prescribed, and doing my best to keep myself in line and do the work to make my life worth living.  Climbing has done the most good.  And climbing’s something I’m going to be doing for life!!!

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