Friday, September 16, 2005


On Wednesday someone directed me to one of those "how long will you live" sites? The answer when I typed in my info was 89, which seems like a pretty long time, but of course it could be way off -- the proverbial car that may run you over is just around the corner. And of course, you do such a test on a lark, rarely thinking about it for more than a day after you do it. The irony of doing one of those things was not lost on me when that same evening I received the following e-mail:
dear kids- I may or may not have gone over this with you in the past, but I want all four of you to get a cholestrol profile test- there is a very strong family history of heart disease on my side of the family (my father and his brother, my first cousin Michael (who died in his thirties), and my brother - the genetic issue is a low HDL which is the protective (good) cholesterol. Mine is also well below nomal limits and I suspect the fact I haven't been a smoker is the only reason I haven't had any heart disease. All of you should clarify your own status, as newer medications may be effective, and each of you has a 50% chance of having this defect. Sorry I may have passed this on to you- but in addition you also get a chance of depression and weight issues, but the good news is that there is also a strong genetic dose of intelligence- so all is not lost. Judging from the grandchildren that has been passed on even to the non-genetic grandson!
I went in for a physical almost exactly a year ago, and noted that my HDL was below normal (turns out it was even below my Dad's) -- I've been trying to consume foods that are supposed to help HDL (mostly nuts), but hadn't paused to consider that this could be genetic. Until that e-mail, I hadn't really paused to consider my health -- after all, not only have I remained in good health, so has my family (parents are now in their early 60s and both still healthy, no serious health issues for them or any of my siblings). Dad believes being a non-smoker has helped him, and I imagine that my not eating red meat puts me in even better shape.

We're all going to die, and the question is what will cause it. If heart disease due to low HDL is my fate, so be it, but I don't imagine that I'll be dwelling on it -- I've slept fine the past two nights. Still, this news is making me think, possibly for the first time, about my mortality. I guess I'm pretty fortunate that it took me over 37 years to get around to it.