Health Matters

Greetings from sunny Miami! I’m here for work for a few days. After the frigid week we had in DC last week this is a welcomed change. You’d be surprised how just the sight of sunglasses, flip flops and swaying palm trees can unfreeze you from winter’s grasp.

I was struck by how many people there were begging around my hotel last night. I tend to think that DC has a large population of panhandlers, but this was at San Francisco or New Orleans levels. I’m not sure if they were homeless, but if they were I can understand that as surviving outdoors in South Florida does seem like a brighter option than Washington and places north.

BP Check up (176/366)

Photo: Mike Chaput

Friday I met up with Anthony and accompanied him on his visit to the doctor. He’s got some serious health challenges. His blood pressure was 214/107 – and that’s with him on cocktail of eight different pills that are working to keep his blood pressure closer to 115/75. The doctor explained that for adults aged 40-70 that the risk of heart attack and stroke doubles for every 20-point jump in systolic (top number) blood pressure which makes Anthony 10 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Anthony is also overweight – at 5’7” he’s a formidable 275 pounds and according to the National Institutes of Health’s website that represents a Body Mass Index of 43.1%. I’m not in perfect shape by any means, but that is nearly double my own BMI of 25%. They define obese as over 30%.

A lot of this is tied to Anthony’s diet. He eats mostly foods with high caloric and fat content – foods that will give his body energy to survive outdoors, however, much of what he eats contributes to his coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. That being said, it’s simply not realistic to get him to think about eating healthier when he is more concerned about just finding his next meal.

The physician was alarmed at Anthony’s blood pressure readings. I know of at least two other occasions last year that they admitted him on the spot to the hospital. It saddens me to write this but I am afraid that without permanent housing he will not be able to make the kind of changes to his health and diet that he desperately needs and will not live much longer. “Doctor, I want to live another ten years,” he said with conviction as we sat in small examining room at George Washington Hospital. That would make Anthony 65, two years older than my mother when she died of heart disease.

I hope that he is wrong. My hope is that Anthony lives much, much longer than that.

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