Mario Mendoza was baseball player about a generation ago. He embodied the description “Good field, no hit.” In nine seasons, the light-hitting shortstop failed to bat above .200 five times. The number 200 has been known ever since as the Mendoza line.
When I had my physical back in early August, I discovered that my weight had fallen below the Mendoza line. I weighed in at 198 pounds, a result of riding 3,500 hilly miles during my bike tour during the previous two months. Unfortunately there is another Mendoza line for total blood cholesterol. My cholesterol level came in at 277, far above any previous test result.
My doctor told me to come back in three months and he’d re-test me. In the meantime I was to eat certain foods known to lower cholesterol including salmon twice a week. I am no fan of salmon so that wasn’t going to happen but I did cut out lots of other bad stuff. I substituted nuts (especially almonds) for chips. I ate less red meat. I cut out cookies and ice cream. And had fewer than ten alcoholic drinks. I call this my SEC (Stop Eating Crap) diet. In the week before my re-test, I started eating Brazil nuts (just three or four a day) as they are supposedly the bees knees when it comes to lowering cholesterol.
When I went into the doctor’s office this week I had two expectations: higher weight and not much difference in cholesterol. Weight gain is all but inevitable after a tour ends. Cholesterol is notoriously difficult to reduce because 80 percent of your cholesterol level supposedly is determined by genetics.
I stepped on the scale in the examination room with trepidation. I fully expected to weight 205 or more. Was I ever shocked. 190! I haven’t weighed 190 since my son was born 31 years ago. I thought the scale was wrong. Today I tried on some clothing that had fit rather snugly recently. They fit with room to spare. My son bought me a cycling kit (jersey and matching shorts) for Christmas many years ago. The jersey and shorts were laughably far too small so I put them in a drawer and forgot about them. Today I tried them on. They are still rather snug but I got them on. I’d wear them to ride but I look like a balloon about to pop, such are the sartorial limitations of 67 year-olds.
The lower weight also helped with my lower back problems. I managed to do several walks around home last week without leg pain. My back isn’t close to 100 percent but at least I can walk a mile without crippling leg pain.
Today, I got the results of my blood test. I was surprised to see that my cholesterol level dropped to 229. a decline of 18 percent. (My LDL – the so-called bad cholesterol – also dropped 18 percent.) I wonder if the 277 result had been skewed by my bike tour diet which was heavily dependent on gas station food. Or maybe there was some sort of metabolic trauma from riding so much for two months.
My medical journey continues next month with my sixth or seventh colonoscopy. It’ll be like Fantastic Voyage, alas without Raquel Welch.