A.J. Walker

writerer

Health Matters: Keep Taking the Tablets

It's been a bit of a month and still don't know where it is heading yet. So far the main thing that's occurring is more tablets. To be fair I haven't been taking any tablets for years other than occasional Ibuprofen. I haven't been to the doctors for years (not sure if it was four or five). Back then I was taking something for my blood pressure (Amlopidine) and previously years before that I was also on Allopurinal (anti gout medicine). But I stopped taking both. As I'm over 50 they want to send you into an annual MOT where they take your bloods to look at liver and kidney function and cholesterol, as well as an ECG and obviously blood pressure.

The week before Christmas I had a worrying symptom, which I woke up with when my right hand side of the face (and up an beyond to include the scalp) was very numb. A numb face on one side… what do people think? 1) stroke and 2) Bell's Palsy. Well, I hadn't had a stroke and I didn't have palsy. Got through on the phone to the GPs surgery on the Monday morning, but thanks to Covid there are no in-house appointments but a phone triage system - and there is no time given for when the call may come. In this case it came at lunchtime and I was called in straight away, which was good.

It wasn't much use as far as the issue to be fair though. I was told I hadn't had a stroke and didn't have Bell's Palsy, which I kinda knew. So then my blood pressure was taken and it was very high (although I was sat in a doctor's office with a quite worrying issue). At that point the GP just took all her focus onto my Blood Pressure. I was prescribed low concentration aspirin, and Amlopidine. So straight away I'd gone from taking no tablets to two. I left the doctors and went down the chemist none the wiser as to what the issue was with my face (other than obvious) and basically it seemed to be 'wait and see; it'll probably go and we'll never know' (but maybe put it down to the blood pressure).

First problem was I was given a paper prescription for the aspirin, which I'd said was probably cheaper over the counter. The prescription had notes on it on taking the Amlopidine but it wasn't an item on the slip. So all I bought was a pack of dispersible aspirin for less than £2. It wasn't until a phone call with the GP almost two weeks later I found out that prescriptions are generally sent electronically to the chemist. So I'd had two weeks without taking the medicine I'd been prescribed. Obviously things have changed since the last time I've had a prescription and I should have know about this through some sort of osmosis. The only way I found out about this was a different GP had called to see how I was with the numbness issue. It was whilst I was on this call I said I'd only been prescribed aspirin and the electronic thing was revealed to me.

After the meeting with the GP I had invested in a blood pressure monitor, which arrived on Xmas Eve as a kind of bizarre Xmas present to myself (it wasn't wrapped). Generally now I take a daily reading and put it into an App so I can track it.

On Christmas Eve I started to get another symptom (from same or another illness?) this time it was dizziness, vertigo, balance and visual issues. Together with the numbness this was more than a little disconcerting. Of course happening on Christmas Eve there was no access for SIX days. For the GP was closed for Christmas (including the Monday which was the Boxing Day Bank Holiday). Apparently Amazon can deliver pegs, pens and pads etc as this is essential work, whilst a GP is not essential. So on the Tuesday fully six days after the appearance of the new issue I called the GP (I had called on Monday and couldn't believe it was shut). 'We'll phone you up this afternoon.' No time or general indication possible.

I'd dropped and cracked the phone I use, which was fine at home to use in the dry but would no longer work outdoors in damp weather. So I needed to buy a new one. Didn't leave my house for a good while - as if they'd called and then asked me to come in I needed to be near. But if I wanted to work, I'd need a phone. Argh. Come 3:30pm there was no call and I judged it would be unlikely they'd invite me to come in much later than that. So I headed into town for a quick visit to Argos for a phone (which I ordered online). After that I popped into the Dispensary for a pint and had a Titanic 'Plum Porter' and a Rat 'White Rat.' It was soon beyond six and no call.

Gone 7pm I got a call from the Dr and when I told him the new issue he told me to go to A&E as he thought I required an MRI scan. Eek!

So here I was in a pub, between Christmas and New Year, being told to go to A&E. I ordered one more pint of Rat and I dare say never have I looked so introspective and worried in a pub. I made my plan. I had to go home first and pack a bag with the all the essentials - if I was going to get an MRI scan there probably wouldn't be anyone appropriate to review it later in the evening, so I was bound to be kept in. A rucksack was duly packed with T-shirts, socks, underwear, iPad, phone, Kindle, charger cables and plugs; then it was a walk to the hospital (for the buses were stopping early). Ended up being in A&E from 8:10pm until 3:30am. Had to keep drinking coffee as an excuse to take my mask off. The A&E was pretty busy all night. I noted at triage my blood pressure was substantially below that taken at the GPs. That was probably the highlight of my 7 hours in the hospital.

The doctor at A&E spent a long time with me - around an 80 minutes - on and off (i.e. disappearing to speak to other people). The upshot was that I was diagnosed with shingles for the numb face thing (without the usual rash and pain), and some sort of Labyrinthitis for the vertigo and visual issues. Though he couldn't see evidence of any vesicles or other signs in the ear (partly from my habit of having wax stuffed ears).

As the 'shingles' was already a few weeks in there was no need for any medication. It should clear up in a few weeks to a month. And similar for the Labyrinthitis. So I walked home with my packed rucksack at 3:30am almost dancing after the fear of all sorts of what was causing the issues.

After new year I saw the GP who had told me to go to A&E on the expectation they'd want to do an MRI scan. He wasn't entirely happy with the diagnosis. And myself I was more of the feeling the issue must be to do with something around the eye rather than the ear. The GP said he couldn't see anything in the ear for wax - and no-one else could have. He called to speak to a neurologist keen to try again. The waiting list for such equipment is no doubt an issue. Anyway, I'm now in line for investigations at the Orthoptic Specialists, which will hopefully find out what is wrong. It's another ten days or so away. And if it turns out to be a viral thing that is gone by then, then all I will say (very loudly) is 'Huzzah!' - probably should take a hat with me so I can throw it in the air as I shout it for the third time.

Following the (BP)GP getting the ball rolling with my annual MOT I'd got my bloods taken and then went to in to see her. There was some good news from the MOT. Liver and Kidney function normal. Cholesterol high but lower than it was four years ago. I don't want any more tablets (more of that shortly…) and want to eat better anyway. The guide currently for cholesterol is below 5 is good and above is bad. While mine came out at 6, it was over 7 four years ago. She seemed a bit unsure how I'd got it down so much if I wasn't taking anything and actively trying to control it. Lol. I got weighed whilst I was there and I was also found to be lighter than I was the last time I was weighed. I have scales at home but I never use them - I had no idea how many stones I was. Maybe I should keep an eye on it - particularly if I'm intending to eat better etc.

Doing a delivery job I think many people think it is not that active. After all I think people take more notice of the vans driving around than the drivers wandering around trying to find the right address or how to get to the shed. But on a full route I never walk less than 10k steps and it usually between 12-18k steps. So that must be doing some good (despite the inevitable stress from the piss take of the ridiculous routes).

Anyway, as I said I saw the 'BP' GP and she was keen to get me on a statin or some such nonsense. I said we can review this after I try to get it down through my inevitable excellent home made living plan. As above I'd already gone from having no tablets to having aspirin and Amlopidine. But I occasionally suffer from gout don't I, and what is one of the worse things you can take if you have gout? Yep, aspirin. So I've now had to add Allopurinol to my daily regime. Arghh. Every time you take a damn tablet you end up having to take another to counteract one aspect or another. This is one reason I hate taking tablets.

I'm also worried that tablets are overprescribed, It is in the industries interest to put pressure on the medical community to err on the side of caution to sell more drugs. I mean 'if 6 is safe, we'll say 5.5 to be sure. Oh, 5.5 is too high, lets be extra safe and say 5.' etc. Where does this leave me at the moment?

So my current mediation status comprises:

  • Amlodipine (blood pressure - daily tablet)
  • Aspirin (blood pressure - daily dispersible tablet)
  • Allopurinol (gout preventative due to higher risk from aspirin - daily tablet)
  • Naproxen* (during any gout attacks - tablet)
  • and cholestorol stuff waiting impatiently in the wings…

The medication list before Christmas Eve:
  • occasional Ibuprofen (if felt gout coming on - or other pain related issues - tablet ad hoc)


*
Naproxen is a great anti-inflammatory and is the only thing that works on gout, in my experience. Unfortunately you need a prescription for it. Although it is the same as Feminax Ultra, which doesn't need a prescription. You can rarely find FU, which I assume is partly because people know this. There must be loads of old guys going to chemists for their (very much younger) girlfriends back home. I was surprised that my BP GP wasn't aware of this fact. She also didn't know if dispersible aspirin was a) available in the chemist or b) whether it was cheaper than a prescription - Shrug emoji.

Any more tablets and I'm gonna need one of them lidded boxes with the days of the week on to stop me taking too many - or none - when my memory isn't sure… I may also start worrying about how many calories are in them. I'm a bit unsure why one GP is concerned about the very reason I went to the GP in the first place, whilst the other just seems just to focus on blood pressure full stop.

Assuming nothing gets worse over the next week and a half then the big thing will be the ophthalmic investigations (the letter says leave 2-4 hours for the visit, depending on what investigations may be required). Badly worded, surely it should simply say leave up to four hours - or 'the visit will take 2-4 hours'? Anyway now, I'll be crossing my fingers for it being a departing virus. So do I take an overnight bag to the appointment?
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A Change in Relationship Status

I've an odd relationship with food. I like food and all that, but if it's not there I don't miss it, whilst if it's there I'll eat it. More often than not my breakfast comprises two cups of coffee and then I'll either have food or not after that. Lunch may be a sandwich at an approximate lunchtime or I may not eat anything until gone 4pm. If there is a packet of Pringles or biscuits sat there the Pringles would disappear in a click of my fingers or a half a packet of biscuits just as fast. That's why I generally try to avoid buying the buggers - I can go months without seeing a biscuit or I can eat a packet in two days and contemplate buying another packet. I could live on coffee and one big meal in the evenings (when I say big that may be a plate and a half). As often as not I won't know in the morning what I'm having for an evening meal - and that may be decided by what 'Yellow Sticker' bargain I find. Like I say an odd relationship.

Many of the issues are habits; be it not having breakfast or not shopping to a plan.

I need to fix this.

I'm not there yet, but heading towards meal planning, even if it's just a three day thing rather than a whole week. Just to get into good habits. I hate throwing away food, and if I buy a loaf I don't often finish it before it is going off. So planning would help in that; and similarly with veg: there's no point in buying three courgettes and a packet of peppers if I then buy a yellow sticker 'bargain' and eat that instead, only to throw away the veg.

Planning the meals should make me eat more variety too. At the moment if I have mince I'm having chilli or I'm having shepherds pie. Give me chicken and I'm probably having a chicken curry. It would be good to expand my choice.

At this point I am also thinking that I may aim for 3 days a week eating vegetarian, not for any idealistic reason (give me a chicken or a steak a day I'd be very happy), but to make sure I eat all the veg I buy - as a side issue eating veg only makes the dish washing easier with the lack of fatty waste, and because of cooking time veg meals can be a lot quicker to sort than a meal with meat in it :-) That said when I did go through a period of semi vegetarianism in the past I often got hungry not long after dinner (cue lots of cheese and crackers).

Lunch may be the bigger issue at work. What to have, when to make it (and not eating it on the way into work!).

Eating properly in terms of three meals at the right time (and not buying Pringles or biscuits) would be better for me in terms of health I am sure. It has to be better for you if the energy levels are more stable through the day. Knowing what you're cooking and being less random from day to day can help you plan your day too - you can always be flexible if the work day dictates due to a late (or who knows, an early) finish.

Anyway, I'll start getting into planning this week and let's see where my new relationship takes me.
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