When Friends Die Too Young

Pvt. 2 Naudia Glass, left, performs a routine physical on a resident during her clinical training at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons)

If you have spent time in the military or any tactical profession for that matter, or love those who do, you have experience burying people who died at an age that many consider way too young. The surviving members of the family, friends, and teammates are left with memories of a life well lived, a hero, a father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter. It is then our duty to “never forget” and honor our loved ones and to live our lives in a meaningful way that would want us to do. 

Living Life To The Fullest To carry on and live a life of meaning, you have to consider your own health. To help others, you have to help yourself. Many live with regret, guilt, and ask why and do little to nothing to make a friend’s death motivation to be a better person.

A recent death of a grade school friend who died of a massive heart attack at the age of 46, left many of my hometown stunned and at a loss for words. My friend, Barry was an active athlete, a God-fearing, family man who made a life of helping others and loving his wife and daughters. To say his death did not make me look up heart attack symptoms and make a doctor’s appointment for a physical would be a lie.

If you want to honor the fallen by living your life to the fullest, you have to start with your own health and wellness. 

Medical Tests The first step is the most basic.  Seek medical attention and just get annual check-ups from the doctor.  At a minimum, know your blood pressure, cholesterols, and triglyceride numbers.

In a recent article series, Health Screening 101, Dr. Greenwald of Specialty Health in Reno Nevada and I discuss a case study of young policeman who had many of the precursors to an early death (overweight, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, cholesterol, waist size) and the methods to assist with reversing all the above issues.

Additional Medical Tests An additional step is to learn about Lipoproteins (LDL-P).  This requires a special test where the lab runs the blood sample through an MRI machine.  Dr. Greenwald adds, “Yes, bad cholesterol is bad, but the way it is transported throughout the body is what makes it dangerous.

The real risk lies in the number of particles (Lipoproteins or LDL-​​P) that carry the cholesterol (LDL).” The NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) by LabCorp is the additional test that may save your life. An MRI of the blood itself gives the doctor a more accurate count of the particles that carry the cholesterol.

Another addition is a test called the Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones (DUTCH) I recently took that measures sex and stress hormones such as testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, and other androgen and estrogen, progesterone metabolites.

This at-home test is easily done and mailed to the lab with a doctor’s explanation of what is happening hormonally in the body. For instance, genetics, age, and high stress can cause the hormonal system to produce measurable ranges that can cause inflammation, weight gain, loss of virility, anxiety, and insulin resistance to name a few.

This test with a medical professional to explain your options to improve scores can go a long way to completely overhauling your health.

Build Good Habits, Drop Bad Habits You are two habits away from success with getting healthy:  A good habit you have to start and a bad habit you have to drop.  This can be tough if you have gone years without exercise, eating right, and taking care of yourself, BUT it is not impossible.  Take baby steps literally.  Start this process by moving more, drinking more water, and eating less sugary food and drinks.  If walking hurts, try a non-impact option like bike, rowing, elliptical, or swimming. Stretching everyday will make you feel better near immediately.  But be patient, getting healthy takes time seeing the results of new healthy habits and the reduction of the bad habits.  Give yourself a year and you will change your life.  See ideas for an annual plan that adds a new challenge every month but takes it slow and steady.

Concluding Remarks This article is the result of having attended three funerals at Arlington National Cemetery this year and a most recent funeral of a hometown friend younger than myself. All were taken from this Earth too soon.  I was compelled to write something as I consider my own reason for still being here. Please, let something good come from the loss of your departed friend or family member and be the person you were meant to become. General Patton said it best:

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." — Gen. George S. Patton

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