Sarcopenia

It's not as nasty as it sounds, or maybe it is, but it happens to everybody. Sarcopenia. Google it. It's real.

After about age 25 the body starts losing muscle mass. It gets worse around some milestone ages like 50 and 70. I've worked at desk jobs since I was about 14, and not having any particular weight problem never went out of my way to exercise. Now, at 57, even standing is uncomfortable, even after exercising for about 1 year. It's much harder to get that strength back than it is to not lose it in the first place. I'm not convinced it's possible to get it back at all.

Just because you think you can afford to not do physical work, you really can't, unless you spend time and money on a gym. Walk. Shovel snow (if your heart's up to it). Use a push lawnmower instead of a riding one. If you think you can afford to pay someone to do these tasks, think again. Paying a gym and spending lots of time doing dumb exercises is the unseen other half of that. Get outside and get some natural vitamin D instead of spending time in some stinky gym with sweaty people you may not like. You don't have to spend money to work up a sweat.

Look it up. I wish I'd heard of it before I experienced it.

About May 2010 I started to get these spells where I'd get a weird headache behind my eyes, my eyes would feel like I'd gotten soap in them, and sometimes I'd have some dizziness and double vision. That turned out to be just hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which has the simple fix of eating something. [Not even that, it just stopped. I've had to fast overnight for a bloood test and that didn't bother me at all.]

But it took weeks to figure that out, and meanwhile I'd hardly get out of bed because I wasn't sure I could stand. The inactivity got me. Your body loses something like 10% of its muscle mass for each day of bed rest, which is partly why hospitals get you up and walking around now as soon as possible. Now I make a point of getting outdoors several times a day and even just pacing around if nothing else. The exercise isn't always comfortable while I'm doing it, but I feel better afterwards. I use that protein whey (I can't afford meat much anymore) that bodybuilders use, and it seems like maybe I'm slowly gaining muscle mass. It's much easier to not lose it in the first place. I've been at this over a year now.


Well, it isn't just Sarcopenia, which is why I had trouble getting over it. I started having some Angina Pectoris (a particular type of chest pain) so then I got sent to a cardiologist. My father had heart problems, and died of congestive heart failure at age 72, so that was worth looking into.

My trouble walking is because I have 40% blockage in one leg artery and 80% in the other. Discovered by Doppler ultrasound. The Angina is probably from the same sort of blockage. There's nothing wrong with my heart itself as far as anybody can tell. I've had a stress test, echogram, ultrasound on my legs and kidneys, and a breathing capacity test. Many trips to the hospital for doctor appointments.

I've been smoking for 40 years and it caught up with me but not in any of the usual ways. It made my arteries smaller. The usual reason for this is high cholesterol, but I haven't been able to afford much meat the last couple of years, and I've looked at labels on the foods I normally eat and there's not much there. I still smoke 5 or 6 cigarettes a day, but I've started using Polacrilex lozenges, which is nicotine in a lozenge form. They were invented in Switzerland for crews on submarines who couldn't smoke while they were underwater, but it's also used as an aid in stopping smoking. It takes 10-12 weeks for the whole process, tapering off, but I ran out after about 2 weeks and went back to smoking. I have to say I did feel better when I was smoking less. I just got more in today's mail.

So I'm working at stopping smoking and exercising more, which is far preferable to surgery. I can't walk very far without having to rest, but I've learned what the early stages of the Angina feel like so I slow down. If I wait too long I stop and stand still for a few seconds until the Angina goes away. I have my own little bottle of nitro pills, but I've only taken one once, mostly to see what it did.


I had my last doctor's visit that's part of the diagnostic process on 4/19/2012, now I go back in 3 months to check in and I'm not sure what after that. 2 years of wondering, close to 20 doctor visits and tests, finally peace and quiet. Next time it was 6 months between doctor visits.

I have hardening of the arteries, or since they need to invent newer, usually longer terms every few decades, Peripheral Arterial Disease. It means my legs are awkward when I don't get enough exercise but if I exercise too fast I get chest pain. Both are from the same cause.

There's no real cure, I'll always have it but with time and exercise the body adapts. The worst part is giving up cigarettes. I'm down to 4 a day and wondering if smoking a pipe would be safe. Drinking my tea (I don't drink coffee) just seems to require a cigarette with it to be satisfying, so I'm cutting down on my tea drinking. 2 in the morning to wake up fully, 1 around 6 in the evening to stay awake, 1 more around 11 at night to stay awake so I can get online.

Arteriosclerosis is what it's called, and I quit smoking 4/28/2012. No chest pains since about 3 days after I quit.

When I got hauled off to the ER 7/21/2010 my blood pressure was 207/96, which had a few people alarmed. They were just numbers to me. Now I've been on blood pressure pills once a day for about 2 years and it's only about half that:

blood pressure plot

So I walk about 1/3 mile a day, sometimes twice, most days. It seems easier now than it did a few months ago, most of the time. I'm not making any dramatic progress, some days are better than others. Oddly enough holding myself back walking downhill is almost harder than walking uphill.

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