Health, Hobbies, and Happiness

Ageing might bring its challenges, but I'm tackling them.

I'm getting older, but at fifty-six, I still have relatively few aches and pains, except for my knees. Unfortunately, my knees aren't as strong as they used to be, and some days I struggle to get going.

I suspect that one of the reasons behind this is the statin medication I take daily to reduce cholesterol. Cholesterol levels tend to increase as we age, and while most people tolerate statins well, some, like myself, experience side effects. My most common side effect is mild muscle aches, tenderness, and weakness (myalgia).

To monitor my autoimmune-induced medical condition (Type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, Grave’s eye disease), I undergo regular blood tests every three months, specifically checking my creatine kinase levels, an enzyme associated with muscle pain, inflammation, and weakness when elevated.

I've made lifestyle changes to manage my health and stay in good shape. Several years ago, I stopped consuming beef1 and started incorporating more chicken and fish into my diet (I particularly love fish). Additionally, I've begun exercising to maintain healthy muscle tissue.

However, despite these efforts, I've noticed that my leg and upper body muscles have weakened compared to when I was in my 40s. As a result, I decided to invest in an electric bicycle, as my leg muscles are too weak to ride a traditional bicycle without experiencing knee pain. The electric bicycle allows me to exercise while rebuilding my muscle strength.

Another challenge I face is carrying heavy camera equipment. Fortunately, the Fuji mirrorless cameras I use are much lighter than traditional DSLRs, which has been a great help. However, I still find my metal Manfrotto tripod, purchased back when I used a Nikon DSLR, to be too heavy for a full day of photography. It's time for me to consider investing in a carbon fibre tripod that is lighter and more manageable for extended use. I like the Sirui ST-124 Carbon Fibre Tripod and Sirui K-20X Ball Head, but those purchases must wait for a birthday.

So what strategies do I use to maintain my health and well-being?

I stay physically active by participating in walking, hiking, and bike riding. These not only keep me moving but also contribute to my overall well-being.

I focus on a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like fish. Avocado, a fruit in its own right, has been a part of my diet since childhood. I often slice it and enjoy it in a sandwich on its own.

I strive for 7-9 hours of sleep every night, though I'll admit it's not always easy to achieve. During the peak of the COVID-19 period, my partner Bhavna and I found ourselves glued to late-night Netflix binges to escape reality. We're actively working on breaking that habit.

Instead of formal meditation or yoga, I find solace in spending time outdoors to manage stress. I've never quite mastered staying awake during yoga or meditation sessions. It does not work for me.

Staying hydrated is essential, and I drink ample water throughout the day. We've got a SodaStream, which comes in handy for satisfying those carbonated water cravings. I have an insulated metal cup that holds around 473ml of water – perfect for keeping cold, carbonated water at the right temperature.

Maintaining strong social bonds is crucial, and I invest in nurturing meaningful connections with friends and family to enhance my sense of belonging and emotional well-being.

I believe in mental agility and continually challenge myself by acquiring new skills. I've reignited my passion for fish-keeping and created a terrarium inspired by wabi-kusa principles. On top of that, I'm currently in the design phase for another fish tank that will incorporate iwagumi design principles. Additionally, I'm putting my creativity to work by designing a moss-based terrarium.

By adapting my lifestyle and making thoughtful equipment choices, I strive to maintain my health and pursue my photography passion with greater comfort and ease.

  1. You know. I’ve never liked beef. I started eating it when I moved to the USA. Americans are obsessed with beef?

2019 Sucked

2019 was a challenging year for me, marked by health struggles, including Graves Disease and its complications. I persevered through surgeries, treatments, and work commitments, finding comfort in therapy and photography.

2019, like 2018, was challenging due to health issues. Diagnosed with Graves Disease, I struggled with thyroid imbalances, affecting my mental and physical health. Despite various medications, my autoimmune system continued to attack my thyroid, causing symptoms like anxiety and weight loss. I lost 30 pounds before surgery.

Balancing this with a new client on Wall Street, I worked a hybrid schedule: two days from home and three in the office. Remarkably, I missed only three days for surgeries, managing to complete all client work.

It was challenging. One day, I broke down, immobilized on a Manhattan sidewalk, overwhelmed by hormones. My wife, unable to assist from Princeton, offered support over the phone. Two days later, I was in the emergency room for observation.

My medical team advised a thyroidectomy. In late 2018, I underwent successful surgery, leading to a lifetime of Synthroid medication.

Recovery went well until 2019, when my immune system attacked my eyes, worsening my Graves Eye Disease. This led to proptosis, causing my eyes to protrude noticeably.

Despite medication, my condition deteriorated. In April, amidst my father's passing, I received radiation and steroids. My wife drove me 90 minutes to the Will Eyes Institute in Philadelphia for six weeks, balancing this with her work commitments. The treatment left me perpetually exhausted.

The mask made for my radiation treatments caused claustrophobia and anxiety. I took Xanax before each session, meaning I couldn't drive. Bhavna drove me to the hospital in Philadelphia and from there to my office in Iselin. I'd return by train, with Bhavna picking me up at Princeton Junction Station.

During my second treatment week, my dad passed away. The doctor advised against pausing treatments, so I missed his funeral in the Caribbean. My hair fell out, and my skin darkened and cracked around my eyes. The weight I'd lost due to thyroid disease returned, ironically, thanks to high-dose steroids.

I started therapy for anxiety, struggling with positivity. We explored stress relief through exercise and photography. I took up street photography, walking between appointments in Center City, Philadelphia.

After radiation, I faced orbital decompression surgery to relieve eye socket pressure. Risks were involved, but blindness was a potential alternative. Post-surgery, I developed strabismus, seeing double. It was supposed to be temporary but persisted, leading to another surgery in December.

I couldn't drive due to the strabismus, relying on Bhavna and ride-share services for mobility. My client allowed me to work from home, a rare concession for consultants.

Confined indoors, I missed hiking and outdoor activities. By day's end, I was emotionally drained.

On 18th December, my final eye surgery for 2019 corrected the strabismus. A few weeks later, I regained my driving ability, could hike again, and resumed photography. It marked the end of a challenging 14-week period.

I almost failed to complete my CSA CCSK course, needing an extension. Post-surgery, I dedicated weekends to studying, finally completing it. So, I bid farewell to a challenging 2019.

In praise of meat, milk and eggs

"Excluding animal products from your diet as a vegetarian or vegan is a choice some people have the luxury to make."

Excluding animal products from your diet as a vegetarian or vegan is a choice some people have the luxury to make, and if they know what they’re doing, and take care, they can be perfectly healthy. But there are probably far more people who have no choice in the matter. They would eat meat if they could, but they simply can’t afford it. For those people, a little bit of animal source food – milk, meat, eggs – can make a great difference to their health and wellbeing. It can be easy to forget that, in the clamour for meatless Mondays and other efforts to respond to climate change. There’s also the fact that in many parts of the world, animals play a very useful role in transforming things people can’t or won’t eat, like grass, into good food. Eat This Podcast