Coffee with Mimi

By Mimi Becker 

Contributing writer

Health status should not be a number

As a requirement of maintaining my retirement insurance category benefit, I must complete a health assessment each year. I could go to the doctor and have a battery of tests run and then submit those reports to the insurance company. The deadline was fast approaching for the completion of this little exercise and I determined I had best go the on-line route.

I had allowed the deadline to creep up on me last year, as well, so I already had an account set up with the appropriate entity. However, as usual, I had forgotten my username and password for this function. Several minutes of frustration ensued as I attempted to determine my needs from among the numbered options available in the automated phone answering system employed by the insurance company.

Eventually I gave up on the so-called efficiency plan and dialed every number I could find on-line until I got a human being who would listen to my tale. Apparently, there was a real problem with the automated system, not just user ineptness, and I was connected to another system which did, in fact, allow me to change my password after it was determined I am really who I am and not some fraud pretending to be me.

As this process had consumed quite a bit of time, not to mention the frustration of the whole episode, my state of mind and blood pressure were not the healthiest. Normally, I have quite nice blood pressure numbers. My resting heart beat is under 60 and I really do try to get out there and stay active.

One of my former students had one of those step counters on a recent trip. We all got a kick out of tracking the daily numbers throughout the week. I have no idea how the thing knows how many steps you take since you wear it on your wrist and not your feet, but who am I to question technology. I decided I would benefit from using one of the counters so I called the student’s dad for advice. You really shouldn’t get one that doesn’t track your heart beat, calorie consumption and burn, and sleep patterns and will remind you if you haven’t moved every hour.

I joined the tracking crowd. I bought one. Mine came with a bonus coral colored wrist band at no extra charge. Apparently one must not only work on being fit, one needs to be color coordinated while doing so.

The device came in a rather large box with absolutely no instructions. These days instructions for things are on-line. Good grief. Exercisers must set up an account with username and password and the device will be synced to your cell phone.

Again, account information I will need to remember at some time in the future and again it is attached to something that is supposed to encourage a healthy life style. I accomplished the task and now have what may be dangerously close to an obsession as I check way too frequently to see what my step count is during the day.

Back to the questionnaire which will give me insight into my well-being and will satisfy the insurance company’s need to gather information.

Ostensibly, the goal of the exercise, when all screens are completed, is to offer a snap shot of your health age in comparison to your real age and then to make little motivational suggestions for improvement. I was as honest as I could be about weight, height, eating habits, exercise routines, blood pressure numbers, triglycerides and goals. Who doesn’t want to shed a few pounds and tone up a few muscles? But, I feel pretty good about my current fitness level.

Apparently, I need to improve by a year. My biological age is 63 and my health age is 64. Now, I need to go back and change my answers on those mental health and stress questions. What does that mean?

Many years ago, on my birthday, which also happens to be my anniversary, I felt terrible. I managed to drag myself through the school day and made an appointment with my doctor for some sort of magic potion. I had very few paid sick days available as I had a baby the previous school year, depleting my banked reserve. Speaking of the baby, I was so proud I had returned to pre-baby fitness levels which were pretty good.

So, off I go to the appointment, the last slot of the day. Waiting rooms are by their very nature, awful. You wouldn’t be there unless you are already miserable or your child is miserable, sometimes both. You wonder if the doctor has reached his or her last ounce of tolerance for miserable humans. The room empties out and it is just you, finally.

The doctor glanced through my chart, inquiring about my symptoms, checking my vitals, poking in my throat and ears. He wished me a happy birthday, as that detail is recorded in my medical history. At the conclusion of the visit, the doctor announced I most likely had the flu, final results of tests would be forthcoming, but he felt pretty sure about it as he had seen a bunch of it already that week. Go home, rest and drink plenty of fluids.

And, by the way, I really should lose some weight. Seriously? That’s the best he could do to make me feel better? On my birthday and anniversary? I had worked so hard to get back to pre-baby status.

Today, I am 63 in a 64-year-old body. I think it is a conspiracy and when I figure out who has propagated it, I will sell my story and go to a spa on the profits.