Medical Mendoza

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.

7 thoughts on “Medical Mendoza

  1. Yeah, I’m gonna guess the gas station convenience store crap you ate all summer had something to do with the cholesterol numbers. I lost 15 pounds on my first coast to coast tour and never gained it back. Four years (and another tour) later the weight is still off. Before the first tour my PSA was so high the urologist was certain I had cancer. 9 weeks on the bike and it was back to normal. Neither of us had any idea why.

  2. I am surprised you weren’t put on a statin (or did you not want that ). Several years ago with a total cholesterol of just over 200 and a low HDL, I stopped eating all treats like cookies cake pie and candy (still eat some chips and stuff) and I eat a lot of salad, probably have half the portion of meat I used to and my weight went from 208 when I retired to 163 today. Last spring my total cholesterol was 98 (HDL still low- hard to raise that) so I asked my cardiologist if there was such a thing as too low a cholesterol. He said “interesting question”. And I am now on cholesterol 5 mg. Oh and I walk 6 miles a day. Better living through salad. exercise, and pharmacology! Lastly remember there was no heart disease in our parents. That helps too.

  3. This is amazing! Loosing weight can be beneficial, but I much more focus on the benefits that accompany that. The real focus is the health “glow up.” There is certainly some truth to the idea of your body having a bit of trauma from the heavy riding. I had higher-ish cholesterol when I was running waaayyy too much despite eating relatively healthy. Either way, my favorite part of this entire post was your pain lessening. Congrats all around!

  4. There’s a lot of positive in that post but I’m struggling to get rid of the mental image of Raquel Welch performing a colonoscopy 😵🤢

  5. I love how you talk about your health. I like to talk about mine, too, because I am 64. My younger friends always roll their eyes at me.

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