All of the health warnings to get people to keep their weight down used to make sense to me until I participated in a wellness screening earlier this year.
I had never worried too much about my weight until after that diagnosis. I have exercised about 1 ½ hours, five days a week religiously since 1972.
I am not inflexible when it comes to what I eat. Occasionally I’ll fall from the vegetable, fruit and fish health food wagon my partner Bette tries to keep me on and have some McDonald’s, Church’s or barbecue.
So I thought nothing of doing the wellness screening until the woman said that with my height at 5 feet 10 inches, weight of 191 pounds and waist of 36 inches, I have a body mass index of 27.
She told me my blood pressure was below normal because of the exercise and my good cholesterol was high, overpowering my bad cholesterol. But the health screener said that because of my height and weight, I should weigh 170 pounds instead of 191.
I weighed about 170 pounds after my surgery for prostate cancer in 2011 and I was unable to exercise for six weeks. That’s what sitting around does to me.
My weigh goes down from muscle mass loss instead of up from the increase in flab. I otherwise hadn’t seen my weight at 170 in nearly 39 years when at age 21 I started work at The Star. I have an old identification card to prove it.
My height without shoes had always been 5 feet, 11 inches. But age and the radiation I endured in 2013 after the cancer returned may have chiseled off an inch. At age 60 now, I’d rather have the extra deducted from my middle than my height.
I told the health screener that I’d likely see 170 again when I’m either super-sick or dead. We laughed, and then she turned to give co-workers some bad weight news.
Such health standards debone the seriousness of a recent Washington University School of Medicine finding that more American adults now are obese than are only overweight. The report, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, estimated that 67.6 million Americans over age 25 were obese as of 2012 compared with 65.2 million people in this living large country who were merely overweight.
The count by the medical school in St. Louis was based on statistics gathered from 2007 to 2012. It was part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an ongoing study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Like my health screening, the information included height and weight, which was used to figure the body mass index. A body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal; 25 to 29.9, overweight and more than 30, obese.
I had moved into the overweight category, and it didn’t feel good. My first inclination was to pooh-pooh the study. It couldn’t be right. What do they know?
But the health concerns that accompany being overweight and certainly obese are too great to ignore. They include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory problems.
All of those concerns afflicted loved ones on my mother’s side of the family. Excessive weight also increases the risk of cancer, which troubled people on my father’s side of the family.
Being overweight increases concerns over arthritis, back, joint and other mobility issues. Getting older causes enough trauma with people taking cautious baby steps after getting up from lying down or sitting.
Add extra weight on top of that and it takes an awful lot to get the old, stiff body going again. I don’t want a hip or knee replacement in my future.
Getting back that inch in height won’t be possible. But I will continue to exercise and watch what I eat to try to force and keep my weight in the 180-pound range. Staying healthy — regardless of the changing standards — is always best.