Wednesday, November 1, 2017

106 over 74...

I recently took my yearly physical examination. Since I left my football playing days (so long ago) where I was examined by multiple doctors to make sure I was physically fit to practice and play on the football field, I diligently made sure that I stayed on top of my own personal health and well being. When I schedule the date of my physicals it is usually 3-4 weeks in advance of meeting with my doctor to make certain that I "listen" to my body and make sure I have noted any changes to be discussed and documented that might have occurred since my last physical examination.

I pay attention to everything that occurs during the examination but there are two specific areas of concern that I pay very close attention to. The first is my blood pressure reading and the other is the results of my prostate exam. When I was younger I never really gave the thought of a prostate examination any serious thought because when I was younger the prostate exam was for older men. Well, now that I am of that older man's age and with a better understanding that prostate cancer is very treatable if caught early it has become an important part of my exam. The other thing people should know about prostate cancer is, it is more prevalent in the African American male community where many men feel uncomfortable undergoing that kind examination. As I have gotten older and as I have seen many men of my age including men I am friends with being diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer it is important  for me not to close my eyes but to embrace it and be an example for men to follow. As a result, I have done extensive voluntary work to help make men (especially men of color) more aware of prostate cancer and the importance of early detection.

The other concern I mentioned about my yearly physical examination is my blood pressure reading. Understanding my own family health history and other key factors play into the importance of paying attention to the reading. Hypertension runs rampant in the families of minorities from the Southern United States. Where I am originally from falls within the Hypertension and Stroke Belt of states that start in North Carolina and run through my home state of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas. I now live in New Jersey but I certainly understand my roots and where I am from. There was a time, years ago, when I ate what I wanted whenever I wanted and I remember my doctor telling me that based on my then high blood pressure reading and my family's history it might be a good idea to start thinking about putting me on medication for my blood pressure. I remember looking at him and saying "Doc, hold that thought!" I walked out of his office and immediately changed my eating habits and doing some type of exercise every day for two weeks. I went back to him and my blood pressure reading was significantly better.

My most recent blood pressure reading was 106 over 74. I was floored! I was looking for something in the neighborhood of 120 over 80. The nurse who took the reading said "this is the best reading you've ever had here!" That is saying a lot because I've been going to my doctor for almost 30 years.  I was proud of myself as it was not my intent to lose weight or to get to those numbers. I had made a conscious decision to eat healthier (less fried foods and foods high in sugar and fat), to drink more water and less sugary drinks and be more active from a cardiovascular standpoint.

I write a lot about brain related issues but it is important to recognize that the heart and a healthy blood flow throughout the entire body including the brain is important to maintain overall good health.

On a personal note, I would strongly encourage everyone, if possible, to take a yearly physical examination to be up to speed with vital stats such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, height/weight and for men a prostate cancer screening. To be proactive in managing one's own health is important for everyone; if not for themselves personally, then for their family members who might ultimately be responsible for illnesses one could have sustained neglecting their own health and well being.

Monday, July 10, 2017

PHOTO UPDATE - Festival of Economics of Trento, Italy 2017.

Harry Carson attended the prestigious Festival of Economics of Trento, in Italy as a panelist. He shared his thoughts on the benefits of sports to promote good health, also pointing out the hazard of sports related injuries and the adverse effects on short and long term health. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Be good to yourself…

In some of my past blog entries I’ve spoken a great deal about neurological issues, more specifically concussion awareness and other traumatic brain injury issues. In this entry, I am going to “table” my passion for speaking on those issues I normally address. Instead, I would like to encourage all who read this to be good to yourself.

With so much going on in the everyday task of living life many of us don’t take the opportunity to stop and “smell the roses” so to speak. From morning to night most of us (including myself) don’t always take a moment to count our blessings. We all are inundated with all types of communication and social media like emails, Facebook, Instagram, texting, work, commuting, etc. I know that many who will read this might not devote even 2 seconds to improve their general health and well-being because they are just too busy to focus on anything else. That being said, I would like to share a short personal story that might or might not be meaningful to you.

I have a gentleman friend that I've worked out with in my gym for 20 plus years. My friend is a World War II Veteran, a former Prisoner of War, a Silver Star Medal Recipient and is now almost 94 years old. Whenever I walk into my gym and find that he is there before I do anything else I approach him, stand at attention and give him a salute. He salutes me back and then we begin to talk. While I have never served in the military I took ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) courses in high school a long time ago. That salute is my daily greeting to my friend but it is also a sign of the respect that I have for him.

Unfortunately, my friend is now at a place where age is catching up with him. We no longer workout together as he is now confined to a senior assistant living facility near my home. Several months ago, I went to see him and he mentioned that he had not been outside of the facility for 6 or 7 weeks. I told him to put a jacket on and preceded to take him outside. While it was still a little cool with brisk temperatures, when he felt the fresh air and the bright rays of the sun hit his face I could see new life in his face and what seemed like a shot of adrenaline to his spirit. Both he and I continue to talk about that experience and while it lasted for a mere 5 minutes we both know that it was not about the quantity of time we spent together it was more about the quality of that time. Being confined to a room in the facility and not being able to do the simple things he used to be able to do has taken a toll on my friend.

One of the best and truest lessons I learned from playing football is this. Everything in your life can change in the blink of an eye. I’ve seen many players make one wrong turn on the field and their knee or ankle is no longer the same. So, I try my best to never take anything (especially time) for granted. Not a day, not an hour and not a minute do I take for granted. While my friend is almost 94 years old, our 5 minutes in the sun inhaling the fresh air re-enforced my understanding of what is valuable and yet does not cost a thing.

Regardless of your age I encourage you to Live Your Life to the best of your ability. Take a mini-break from phones, emails and texting. Make time to spend some “alone time” to take a walk near a pond or a body of water. And if you do, take that time to smell the fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Be good to yourself at least for a few moments a week and always remember that every minute that goes by is a minute that will never happen again.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Suffering vs Managing"

In sharing my personal experiences with concussions with others and as a traumatic brain injury survivor, I understand that many who read my story, but more importantly, those who write my story might not fully understand the words used to describe my experiences. When I was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome in 1990 it was a relief because I originally thought I had a brain tumor. I had no full understanding of what it was as I can remember asking my doctor, "will I live?" He smiled and said, "you'll live, but you will have to learn to manage it." So, for more than 25 years I've lived, I've learned and I have done my best to manage something that I acquired a very long time ago. One of the things I can definitively say is I have never considered myself as one to "suffer" from Post Concussion Syndrome. Like a good patient I've followed the instructions of my doctor to "manage" my condition and in doing so I live what I consider to be a pretty "normal" life. In living that "normal" life I make time to exercise often, I eat healthy foods and drink lots of water and fluids. I do my best to get plenty of rest and avoid stressful situations that could trigger a headache. More importantly because I have been diagnosed with a brain injury I understand that I often might look at things differently than someone who has not sustained a head injury.

Unfortunately some reporters, writers or people who have recently delved into the world of Concussions, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Traumatic Brain Injuries or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder issues too often paint a doom and gloom picture of individuals living with those conditions. What I don't necessarily care for and what burns me up are the writers and reporters who willfully embellish the severity of the condition to sensationalize it for the sake of drawing greater attention to their article or story and paint the subject of the article as a very "sympathetic" figure the reader should feel sorry for. When I do any interview with members of the media, especially the sports media who generally are not up to speed with medical or neurological issues, I now make certain to emphasize that I do not "suffer" from Post Concussion Syndrome! Instead, I "manage" my life quite nicely, thank you! I actually enjoy sharing what I know with others on sports-related concussions to at least give them an insight into a subject many have no true understanding. Anytime I consent to do an interview, sit on discussion panels, lecture groups or speak with anyone who would like to learn more about the long term effects of head trauma, I make certain to emphasize what Dr. Kutner shared with me, but with my own little spin, "You can live with the condition, you just need to know how to manage it."   

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I have the opportunity on a daily basis to share with many who have joined the ranks of those who have sustained some type of brain trauma or brain injury. The spectrum of individuals effected is wide and greater than most people think. From young kids who were concussed playing a contact sport like youth ice hockey and Pop Warner or pee-wee football dealing with headaches to once world class athletes who are now Hall of Fame former athletes dealing with memory problems that stem from head injuries sustained many years ago. From members of the military who have survived bomb blasts and are now Wounded Warriors to average everyday women and men of all ages who have been in automobile accidents or have slipped and fallen striking their heads damaging their brains. The message I share with all is "manage your condition, refuse to suffer."  

Continue to live the best life you can...!