Kevin O'Hara: Rolling the dice at the age of 70


PITTSFIELD — Today, April 20, is now known as "World Weed Day," but this date also marks my 70th birthday, which I find rather sobering. To put my present age in perspective, if my life was measured by a round of golf, I'd now be playing the 16th hole.

Fortunately, people tell me I look good for my age. Oh sure, I've lost a few molars over the years, and my hearing has diminished due to the cottony twirl of a thousand Q-Tips. But I still have a decent head of hair, and a little spring left in my step.

Sadly, I have one troubling malady: high blood pressure. Of course, I'm not alone here. Studies show that one-third of all American adults have high blood pressure, nearly another third are currently on medication for high BP, and the latter third don't give a flying fig about fluctuating diastolic readings, but are more worried about putting food on their tables.

When I was going through nursing school back in the 1970's, one wouldn't blink at a BP reading of 150/90. In recent years, however, the American Heart Association has whittled these parameters down to a recommended 120/80. Some docs, who may well be sailing the high seas with Big Pharma, want it even lower.

I'm sure a BP reading of 100/70 makes one's heart purr like a Toyota Prius, but what's wrong with a little tiger in your tank? No wonder the majority of Americans don't get enough exercise — they no longer have the zip to get off their Lazy Boys.

Over the years, my physician has told me to stop my pigheadedness and take one or two "innocuous pills" to help lower my revved-up vascular system. But how can these tablets be innocuous when they have such frightening names like Beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and Calcium channel blockers? Most of my senior friends have been sentenced to take these pills for life, and can't fathom why I don't join them. "Why do you think people live so long?" they snap at me. "Do you know you have a four-time greater chance of having a stroke or heart attack by not taking them?"

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But here's the kick. When I'm chilling at home, with Van Morrison in my ear and a Big Elm Farmhouse Ale in my hand, I have ideal BP readings. It's only during my annual physicals that my blood pressure hits the roof. White coat hypertension? Wrong! I call it Johnny-top hypertension.

Think about it. There you are sitting in your doctor's examining room dressed like a buffoon, with your arse sticking out like two bread loaves. Meanwhile, as office girls go snickering by, you're staring down at a stainless steel tray where a pair of latex gloves lay eagerly beside a jumbo tube of KY Jelly that could fit snugly into a caulking gun. Loaded, I dare say, for the grand finale — the inglorious thumb-up-the-bum to check your prostrate. Uh — prostate. And your doctor wonders why your BP has enough propulsion to launch a Saturn V rocket into deep space?

Now you may have heard that nurses make the worst patients, and I admit to being a member of that noble profession. As a further example, I'm fully aware that colonoscopies save countless lives, and I'm a first-class nincompoop not to have one. Sheer stupidity? Yep. Head in the sand? You bet. A stinking cowardly yellow-bellied snake? That's me. If I had been born a cat with my tail pointing skyward, I might consider it. But I'm no such creature. Besides, having worked at BMC for 30 years, I know many of the staff in Endoscopy, and when they say "Bottoms Up," I'd rather hear them say it at our favorite watering hole, and not in their sterile suites.

Furthermore, if your test results show no evidence of colorectal cancer, well, jolly good. Not only have you earned yourself a five-year reprieve until your next go-round, but you're now left with only 89,999 other human diseases to worry about.

So, on this my 70th birthday, I've decided to roll the dice and pray that the dreaded Snake Eyes don't show up to bite me. After all, I have high hopes of living to be 93. If so, the epitaph on my gravestone will joyously read: "Here lies Kevin O'Hara at age 93, who never had a colonoscopy."

Please wish this dummy a Happy Birthday!

Kevin O'Hara is a long-time Eagle contributor. Visit his website at


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