Signal-to-Noise

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the doctor yelled at me again about my weight, and added my blood pressure onto the list to boot.  Since then, I’ve been working a lot more on trying to be healthy.

As those who follow my tweet feed know, I’m walking somewhere between 3.5 and 4 miles a day.  (Depends on if I’m jogging at all, if I get started earlier rather than later, and generally how I’m feeling vis-a-vis breathing any particular morning.)  I’m also doing a few other things to try to bolster my health in general, like drinking more water and trying to (further) cut my food intake, since we all know that upping output and lowering input is the only way to really lose weight.

So I’ve been, at the doctor’s request, tracking my blood pressure twice a week, and since the lovely machine at Wal-Mart also gives me my weight, I’m getting readouts there too.

So after five weeks?  I had been making great progress, and suddenly went back to nearly exactly where I’d been when I visited the doctor.

I have trouble believing that I really gained back 5 pounds over two weeks – either the machine’s been wrong or I did something (say, drinking a liter of water) that threw things off the last two times I weighed in.  (It’s entirely likely.  I drink a lot of water at the office.)  On the other hand, the BP could also be stress over things at work, especially as my sabbatical is looming and I’m getting folks into position to back-stop me.

Tomorrow’s another check, so we’ll see if things are going back the other way.  On the other hand, I’m almost tempted to do day-by-day weighings and blood pressure readings, which really just defeats the tracking purpose by doing horrible things to the signal-to-noise ratio in the data I’m collecting.

Of course, then there’s the funny side of things.  As part of my physical – and given that I have another check-in with the doctor in about a week and a half – I went to go have some blood work done today.

After drawing three vials of blood, the phlebotomist handed me a flimsy plastic cup.  “This is for your sample,” she informed me.  “Sample?” I asked her.  “I don’t have to go to the bathroom, and no one told me I’d be giving a sample.”

“Well, you know when you fast, you can drink water, right?”

“Fast?”  My doctor, of course, had not told me that I was expected to fast before the draw this morning either.  So apparently, the bagel I had for breakfast is likely to throw some things off as well.  Would I have known about this at all?  The doctor didn’t mention it, and it wasn’t printed in something I could understand on the paperwork she had handed me.

Why don’t doctors actually tell patients what they need to know to get proper data?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.