Opinion: The biggest shock is that I’m healthy

I had a heck of a shock at the doctor’s a couple of weeks ago. I had decided that middle age had finally arrived, and the time had come for a bit of a check-up – a mid-life crisis MoT to match the MX-5 that recently arrived in the garage.

First worry was the prostate, which has been a family problem for generations. There was a simple blood test and the results showed there’s nothing to worry about.

Then, at the end of the winter, after three serious bouts of man flu (is there any other type of man flu?), the doctor and I decided that some chest X-rays were in order. After all, I’d been a phenomenally heavy smoker from my mid-teens, and by the time I stopped (24 June 1994 – not that I’ve been counting the days since, or anything), I was smoking 30 Camels every day. Very yummy they were, too. My last packet sits, unopened, on the shelf next to me.

So I nipped up the road to Alton for an X-ray – one of the modern walk-in, instant service centres that leaves you completely unable to moan about the modern NHS. Even better, the X-rays showed nothing wrong at all. I even spent an afternoon blowing into assorted tubes and boxes, and managed to prove that my lung power is exactly what it should be.

In that case, I reasoned, there’s something wrong with my heart. Heart disease killed my father and grandfather, and I’ve been getting chest pains, and my whole jaw aches after a bit of exercise, and getting lots of colds is a sure sign – I’d read it on the internet.

The doctor smiled sweetly – despite being faced with yet another cyber “expert” – and agreed to do more tests. More blood was taken, I spent a session on a couch with electrodes glued to assorted extremities, and I was told to return in 10 days or so to discuss the results.

And this is when I had the shock. According to the nurse whose job it was to collate all the facts and figures, I am remarkably healthy.

For a start, my cholesterol level is half of what it should be. Frankly unbelievable with my diet. True, I enjoy a salad every lunchtime, but you can’t see the leaves for cheese and mayonnaise, and I wash the whole lot down with a couple of Caramel bars.

Meanwhile, the chance of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years is, according to complicated computer program that analyses all the data, under 10% – against an expected figure of about 20%. “Blood pressure is fine,” she said, “and your liver is healthy, too.

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“Let’s just check your weight,” she said. The scales groaned a bit (One at a time, please. No coach parties!), and the nurse consulted another chart. “Hmmm. You are clinically obese – according to this.”

I was preparing my list of excuses when I saw her critically eyeing my bulging torso under my white T-shirt. “But you are exceptionally heavily built, so we can ignore that result.”

As I squeezed myself back into the MX-5, I wondered: Was she eyeing me critically – or was that appreciatively?

Luckily, cramp from all the contortions brought me back to earth. Dream on, you middle-aged cyberchondriac.

Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha at Hinton Ampner, in Hampshire.

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