About two months ago I was referred to a sleep quality clinic by my family doctor. It was a bit of a lark: I had a sinus infection and The Fiancée™ constantly complains about my snoring, so maybe there’s something to be done. I had an appointment with my doctor yesterday to discuss my results; I’ve been diagnosed with “severe obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome with significant desaturation.” In plain English, I stop breathing when I sleep.
That’s not the bad news (or even surprising, given why I was getting tested in the first place) –- the bad news is that the constant jolts to my system as I stop breathing and then kick back into gear combined with years of low-grade oxygen deprivation have damaged my heart; I am at significant risk of congestive heart failure. The nurse practitioner who walked me through my test results used the phrase “dead of a heart attack by forty.”
I’m thirty-four. So that was a bit of a shock.
Basically, the condition I’m in is unsustainable in the long term, and left unaddressed it’s going to kill me sooner rather than later. The good news is there’s big things that I can do about it. The top thing is getting a CPAP machine so that I don’t spend eight hours a night depriving myself of oxygen and jolting my heart. The other big thing is losing weight. I’m going on a diet and exercise program immediately; low carb, low fat, high protein combined with constant and healthy exercise. It’s going to require some significant changes to how I eat and live, but it will greatly improve my prognosis.
The Fiancée™ is pretty upset (the kitchen cupboards got compulsively reorganized yesterday, which is a clear sign to those who know her that there’s some severe emotion going on.) I’m not much better; it’s a beautiful day, everything’s going great and oh by the way I’m going to be dead soon if I don’t smarten up. It’s a bit of a shock, really. Fortunately, I’m marrying someone with a better-than-average grasp of the holistic approach to health care; we have a family doctor with a proactive attitude towards keeping his patients healthy; and the company gives me a fairly comprehensive health plan. Things are going to be okay, but only if we start fixing it now.
So, twenty-four hours later, here’s the plan:
1 — Go back to my doctor this afternoon and work out a weight loss plan (possibly including referral to a dietician or something) as well as clarifying the procedure for getting a CPAP machine.
2 — Get a CPAP machine. (My company health insurance should be a big help there.) This is apparently huge improvement waiting to happen, and it can happen very quickly in the short-term. One of my SCA friends called me up yesterday when he heard about my visit from the doctor; he got more or less the same prognosis about five years ago and we had a long talk about how the CPAP machine will effect one’s health and well being. It was good to get some first-hand info on how it works and how much better he felt after using one.
3 — Lose weight and get in shape. Judging from the huffing and puffing I did yesterday getting halfway up Wallis Heights (SCA people, think Runestone Hill at Pennsic) during the dog-walking portion of my evening I’ve been letting things slide over the winter, but that’s going to have to change.
Basically, you can lose something like two pounds a week in a healthy manner. Any more than that and you’re straining your system, and since it’s my heart we’re worried about I suspect that straining my system is bad idea. Fifty pounds at two pounds a week means six months of effort… followed by an indefinite (i.e. the rest of my life) period of maintenance to keep myself at a good weight. That’s not a “diet plan” anymore. That’s a lifestyle change. But it has to be done: I’ve got plans for the next forty years; I need to be around to work through them.