Results of the Physical

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.

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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.

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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:

P1100260 Kidney, liver, lungs, and heart all seem to be functioning fine. 

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!

29 thoughts on “Results of the Physical

  1. i did that test last week, the one with the treadmill, for a class. all the guys were competing to see who can stay on the treadmill the longest. haha. most people end around 12 minutes. i gave up before i ever reached my max. hr. it’s pretty tiring…

  2. My cholestorol dropped significantly when I started reading the labels on every type of food at the supermarket and making sure I only bought low cholesterol items (may not be helpful in Thailand if there aren’t the same labels!)  Some weight loss as well.  But you do have to exercise also to really get the benefit.  Sounds corny but it really does work.  You are at the age when it is important to develop healthful habits.  On the other hand, that quiche sure does look good! 

  3. I agree with blue_beau, you have made this whole hospital experience look like a fun day! Glad your health is fine and hopes that it remain so! PS: The mascot is so intimidating (in a cute way!)! lol

  4. Did you really not drink any water for 12 hours before the blood test?  It did not seem they had hard time getting the blood sample?  I always have to drink a lot of water, otherwise they would have to poke, poke, and poke again to get any blood from me. Ouch! 
    Glad you got a good thorough physical.  When I asked my doctor for my annual physical, all he said was, “Did you feel anything different?”, took my blood pressure, listened to my lungs, and pushed hard on my tommy and see if I screamed for pain. lol  I think I need to ask for another doctor to do my next physical. 

  5. @RakkaRay – Not corny at all.  Diet and exercise have to go hand in hand.  I just need to get my butt downstairs to the pool more often and also get on the bicycle more than twice a month.  Especially now that rainy season is coming to an end, I should be outdoors more.

  6. Do you play any sports? You might want to pick up basketball or a racquet sport. Exercise is more fun when playing sports. Don’t overdo it though. Also watch the carb intake and consume more veggies and protein (tofu?)

  7. @chrispycrunch – Thanks for the suggestions, Chris.  There is a tennis club not far from my house and two expat friends have invited me to play.  I’m not terribly competitive, though, which is why I prefer more solitary pursuits such as swimming and cycling. 
    As for the carb thing, I think the message has been messed up along the way: it is the refined carbs that need to be avoided, but I eat mainly whole grains.  I eat oatmeal every morning, bake my own 100% whole wheat bread from scratch, and regularly make soups and other dishes with lentils, barley, quinoa, etc.  Tawn and I also eat a lot of veggies, so I’m inclined to think that my cholesterol isn’t so much diet-related.  But we’ll see what I can do about it.

  8. @kenpcho – I fully agree.  Here in Thailand for the longest time they served “red” rice, the unpolished whole-grain type, to prisoners because it was so much cheaper than white rice.  Of course, it was also much healthier but that wasn’t the motivating factor.  Now, as whole grains are becoming so popular, demand for this red rice has pushed the price at or above the price of white rice, so now the prisoners have been switched to white rice.  Immediately after, there was an outcry from prisoner rights advocates decrying the change to a less nutritious food!

  9. Haha. How bizarre! In a sort of roundabout kind of way, it reminds me of how living units on or near the bottom floors of buildings were always more expensive and the servants inhabited the upper floors…that is, until the elevator was invented and the whole thing flipped around. :o)

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