Saturday morning was spent at Bangkok Hospital, undergoing a comprehensive battery of exams, tests, pokes and prods. Hospitals here, in an effort to reach out to expatriates and more affluent Thais, offer a range of physical exams that include everything from blood tests to EKGs to chest xrays, packaged with spiffy names and discounted prices.
Tawn and I met jointly with the doctor, an affable man in his late 30s whose jeans and Hawaiiam shirt said “weekend shift”. We discussed options and agreed that a package that included an EKG and a stress test would be good, so that we can get a healthy baseline from which to measure in the future.
As for the chest xray, which seems less common in a routine physical in the United States, the doctor explained that because of the higher prevelence of tuberculosis here in Thailand, chest xrays are a standard practice to screen for the disease. Given that a single xray only gives you the equivalent of five to ten days worth of passive radiation, it seemed a small price to pay for the assurance that I do not have tuberculosis.
First off, the measurements: height, weight, blood pressure (which was initially high but a few minutes later we retook it and it was normal), and samples of various liquids including blood.
I remember when I was a child, I absolutely hated getting shots or having blood drawn. Then at some point in my life I decided that it wasn’t that painful – depends on the nurse or technician, though – and it was actually quite fascinating. So now I don’t mind at all.
While the lab work was being done, we changed into our scrubs for the stress tests. At first, I misunderstood the instructions and changed into the bottoms, too, but in fact only needed to change into the tops. Stylish, huh?
I’ve never done a stress test before and it was quite interesting. You get wired up with various monitors and a blood pressure sleeve. The wires all run to a box that is strapped around your hips with a velcro belt, then the box is connected back to a computer. Then you get on a treadmill and start walking.
Every two minutes the speed is increased and your blood pressure is taken. This continues until you reach the target heart rate, which is (I think) 90% of your theoretical maximim heart rate, based on 220 beats per minute minus your age. So I’m almost age 38, so my target was 164 beats per minute. After eight minutes at ever-increasing speeds and angles of incline, I reached my target. My blood pressure was taken again and then I started a three-minute cool down period.
The goal of the stress test is to measure not only how your pulse and blood pressure increases during exercise but how quickly they recover after the exercise is complete.
After we were done with that, we had an hour to wait until the lab work was done and we could review the results with the doctor. So we went to lunch at the cafeteria, starved after having fasted for nearly fifteen hours.
During our visit, Tawn was assaulted by the hospital mascot, who was handing out brochures for some new service. It turns out that there’s a man inside that nurse’s body, kind of a twist on what is more common in Thailand: a (female) nurse hiding inside some men’s bodies.
When we returned to meet with the doctor, the results were pretty much as I expected:
Cholesterol is a little elevated (235, target is below 200), which is lower than it was five years ago but has increased a bit in the past two years.
Weight is a little high (102 kilograms, about 220 pounds) and the doctor suggests that losing about ten percent of my body weight would probably help with my post-exercise recovery, which is a bit slow.
Bottom line: start exercising more and stop eating as much of things like this quiche, which I baked on Thursday evening. Considering how expensive cheese is here, that would probably help my financial health as well!