On Remaining Youthful

A few weeks ago I was at the gym working out (which I do 1-2 times a week, for an hour).  One of the trainers came over to tell me how to use the machine I was using correctly.  I explained to him (in Hebrew) that I was not really interested, I only wanted to stay healthy at my age.  He asked me how old I was, and I asked him to guess.  He guessed “60.”  When I told him I was very nearly eighty, he was really surprised.  I have often encountered this kind of reaction when I tell people how old I am.  To look ca. 20 years younger than I am is somewhat unusual.

People ask me how I remain so youthful-looking.  I really don’t know, but I have some opinions that might be of interest.  The first reason I can give is that in my youth I suffered from palpitations, a medical condition called tachycardia.  When I first experienced this phenomenon as a young teen I thought I was having a heart attack and was about to die.  But, after medical consultation they told me it was not dangerous, was not uncommon in people my age and it would probably gradually cease as I grew older, and indeed it did.

But, having my pulse running at a rate of ca. 170 beats per minute instead of the usual ca. 70, was always a shock.  There was nothing to do except wait for it to pass.  Sometimes the attacks lasted five mins and sometimes for hours.  After an attack like that I would feel completely exhausted.  The doctor told me it was like my heart was running a marathon while I was sitting still.  I think this is one reason I have remained youthful, it’s as if I was running marathons at an early age, and my steady pulse now is around 56, equivalent to that of a dedicated athlete.

When I moved to Israel at the age of 55 for some mysterious reason the palpitations came back.  At first I did not take much notice of it, but one day we were visiting the Roman remains at Beit Shean, and I climbed the central acropolis in the heat and I started a palpitation.  I walked down slowly, walked all the way to the car and my wife drove me to the nearest hospital at Afula.  There they thought I was having a heart attack until I managed to explain to them what was happening.  They treated me and the palpitation stopped after a few hours.

I knew then that I had to do something about this, so I went to the Cardiology Dept. at Tel Hashomer Hospital, where I worked.  There they did a capillary intervention, passing two capillary tubes containing electrical wires up through the vein in my leg into the heart (I could see this on a screen from the X-ray) and then when they found the nerve node causing the palpitations, they could turn it on and off with one wire, and then they ablated (burnt) it with the other wire, and miraculously since then I have never had another palpitation.

The second reason I can suggest for why I remain youthful is that in 1990 I had an occurrence of selective blindness (part of my vision was lost).  This was diagnosed to be due to a benign growth on my optic nerve called a meningioma (from the meninges, the envelope that covers the brain).  This was removed in an operation (that took 7 hrs), that damaged the pituitary gland that is right next to the optic nerve as it enters the base of the skull.  As a result my glands do not produce the necessary hormones, and so I have to take a few tablets to substitute for them.  By taking these hormones I have avoided the usual decline in hormone production that occurs in most men (and women) as a result of aging.  I do not know if the two reasons I have cited are indeed anything to do with my supposed youthful appearance, but they might be.

PS. To all my readers, a Happy New Year (Shana Tovah), in peace and health.