A personal ultimatum - Joel Hall

It's funny how one trip to do the doctor for one concern can open up a can of worms, with which you weren't prepared to the deal.

For several months now, doctors have been treating me for pain. In the process of poking around my body trying to figure out the cause, I've gone through a battery of tests. After one of the medications I was taking, I started to get chest pains, the doctors decided to start checking my cardiovascular system.

Two different echocardiograms came back perfectly normal, and the chest X-ray showed no signs of trouble. When the doctors tested my cholesterol levels, however, I was blown away.

A normal, healthy cholesterol level is anywhere between 125 and 200 points. As of last week, mine was 253. My LDL cholesterol, which is the bad kind, is 36 points above what is considered safe. The doctors made me aware of another problem that was slowly killing me.

The whole process really threw me for a loop because I'm usually very conscious about what I put into my body. While I've written about sampling all kinds of strange local fare while living in Europe, Africa, and Asia, my normal diet consists of whole-grain bread, low fat milk, yogurt, and lots of fruits and vegetables.

When I actually have a chance to sit down and eat those healthy things is another question entirely. Many people look at a newspaper and just see the finished product, not really knowing the personal toll that journalism takes on the journalist.

Sometimes, tracking down a busy source can mean skipping a meal, never mind the time it takes to formulate that person's thoughts into a format that is accurate, intelligible, interesting, and fair.

Then there's the dreaded "fourth meal." The Surgeon General should hunt down the person at Taco Bell who came up with that great marketing scheme, because it is slowly killing America.

After covering many late night city hall meetings, I often fall victim to the fourth meal. The late night hours are the times in which your body makes the least use out of the nutrients you put into it.

Then, I thought about my exercise routine. From sunrise to sundown, I am usually sitting in a chair talking to people and listening to what they have to say. While my brain gets an enormous workout, the rest of my body just kind of sits there. I couldn't remember the last time I have done a push up, a pull up, or even taken a brisk jog.

I took some immediate steps to combat this. I dug through all of my old DVDs and videotapes for some instructional exercise videos. I ended up finding some aerobic workouts by Gilad Janklowicz, who I gather was more popular in the early 1990s.

Aside from all the tight spandex, the pedantic, Casio keyboard-composed workout soundtrack, and Gilad's distracting Balki from the TV show "Perfect Strangers" accent, it was hard for me to take the workout seriously. A lot of the workout incorporated moves like air guitar and footwork resembling moves from "Riverdance."

After becoming tired with Gilad, I took a trip this weekend to a lake where I sometimes used to run. The last time I had been there was about a year ago. I used to be able to run around the lake at least once without stopping, but this time, about a quarter of the way through, it became painfully apparent that my doctor wasn't just throwing numbers at me. I really need to start taking my cardiovascular health more seriously.

I think the business of journalism is important, and I want to be around long enough to make a real difference. That's why I am making it my immediate goal to do whatever I can to bring down my cholesterol naturally.

I don't usually ask for help from my readers, but if you have any healthy eating tips, exercise advice for somebody who spends a lot of time trapped in an office, please feel free to share your knowledge with me.

Like any journey, it's always easier to do when you're not alone.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.