I work in a lovely private school in Lima, Peru. One of the perks of working here is that I get free health insurance. I haven’t had to use it much (except for that time I drank some knock off booze laced with anti-freeze and started to lose the feeling in my face and hands – but that only happened once).
So, every other year, the insurance company does a health check on us. They set up some curtains around the edge of the basketball court for their examinations.
We are all given a little brown bag with a little pot in it that we are to pee into first thing in the morning, and bring with us to school. So we sit on benches and shuffle forward, eventually getting up to brandish our pots of pee at the nice nurses. They do all sorts of things to us. They take a chest x-ray, they test our eyes, they look at our teeth, if you are a man over 50 they check your prostate. There is even a psychological test where we have to do some IQ test-esque puzzles and then draw a picture.
The bit I liked best was the blood being drawn. There is one very tall Dutch teacher here, she is so scared of needles that she faints when she is going to get an injection – so they provided a bed for her to lie on while they drew her blood. Though I am not sure how much of her would fit on it.
They tie up your arm as if they are going to inject you with heroin. then they jab you with a needle and fill up two vials of blood. Watching my blood gently pump out of my arm and begin to fill up the little glass tube was engrossing. I expected it to come in squirts, matching the rhythm of my heart, but instead it just flowed out, like beer from a tap.
Weeks later, I got my results back, and I was shocked. My cholesterol was 221 mg/dl and my triclycerides were 162mg/dl. Now, I had no idea what these numbers mean. I have no idea what a triglyceride is, and only a passing notion that cholesterol is vaguely sinister. The information that came with my results warned that my levels were dangerously high and I was in danger of turning into one enormous hear t attack at any minute.
Luckily this coincided with Movember. This year, Movember have added the challenge of moving every day in November to the not very difficult one of growing a moustache. I had added my own twist: I was going to give up alcohol.
Now, you might not think that this is a big deal – but I like a drink. I like lots of drinks.
At least being British, I don’t have Thanksgiving to contend with, right? WRONG! Of course my good friend Jason invited me over for “Friendsgiving” where everybody guzzled wine all afternoon. I drank sparkling water.
So, for a month, I have been running, lifting, playing soccer, doing yoga, getting up early, eating lots of vegetables, all the while cultivating a glorious moustache.
And did it have any affect on my cholesterol and triglycerides?
I went to a little clinic behind my house – the are millions of clinics around the place. The Peruvian middle classes are very health conscious.
I was seen within five minutes and received my results online five hours later.
My Cholesterol was down to 159, well within normal and my Triglycerides had dropped by over two thirds to 57.
This was amazing. I am truly impressed at how quickly my body has changed and adapted to my new routine of steamed vegetables and yoga.
But today is the 1st December, am I having a beer while I decorate the tree? No. I am having six.