My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cycling for Life

Why am I writing about the health benefits of cycling?  In short, to testify.

As I noted in my first blog post leading up to my posts about last year's RAGBRAI:
You see, I'm a 45 year old man with a desk job.  I don't eat the best.  At least I didn't used to, trying to do better now.  And my doc thought I should shed a few lbs and lower my cholesterol before it got bad.  So I've being toying with riding a bike to get exercise.  I can't run (due to a hip replacement) and I can't swim (because I can't swim).  So, I figured biking would be good.

In the fall of 2009, six months before I began riding to prepare for RAGBRAI, I had my annual physical.  It included a cholesterol check.  The results: my triglycerides were at 206 and my blood pressure (BP) was 135/91.  According to the American Heart Association, the triglycerides is "High" and my blood pressure is Stage 1 HBP.  My father has a history of cardiac issues.  It runs in his family.  In my family.

So, I could do nothing and end up on medications and what not waiting for something to happen (the only thing that would happen though would be a cardiac arrest, a stroke, or some such other event).  Or I could get off my duff and do something about it.

So last spring I did something about it.  I started riding, with the goal of completing RAGBRAI last July.  I am thrilled to say I did it.  Over 2100 training miles to prepare and more than 450 miles that week in Iowa.

Then I stopped.  Between August and mid-February, I was only on my bike maybe four times. Not per week.  Or per month.  Total.  There were always other priorities, or explanations... or excuses.

For my annual check up in October, my BP was still at a Stage 1 HBP level, 146/87.  (I don't know what it was when I was riding regularly March - July.  My guess is that it was lower.)

On February 14, I started a new job closer to home.  A job where I can be at home every night.  A job I can ride to during the day.  So I started biking.  During the school year, I would drive my daughter to school, then commute into Madison to park and ride the rest of the way in.  Now that school is out, I am riding all the way to work on most days.

In May, I had another doctor's appointment.  And another blood draw.  This time, my triglycerides came in at 113 - well within the normal range.  My BP is down as well, to 126/80, which is "prehypertension," but at the low end of that range and close to normal, as well as moving in the right direction.  While my weight is still too high, it is inching down as well.  My pants that used to be too tight in the waist are now getting a little loose.

So, yeah, I am cycling for health.  And somewhere along the way, very early on, I began loving the bike.  So now, I am cycling for life.

<150 Normal 
150-199 Borderline High  
200-499 High
500+ Very High  

Blood Pressure

My Scores
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
less than 120
less than 80
120 – 139
80 – 89

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)   
   Stage 1
140 – 159
90 – 99
   Stage 2
160 – 179
100 – 109
Hypertensive Crisis (Emergency care needed)   
(Source: American Heart Association)

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