Thursday, February 22, 2007

Only here for the beer?

Few will be unaware that the Czech Republic is the home of Pilsner beer, and that beer is an integral pillar of the national identity. No need to bore you with the details then, but let me reassure you that this is no mere myth or stereotype. This country consumes the most beer per capita in the world, the Czechs live and breathe beer, and after all, their beer is truly excellent.

In addition, most people seem to think it’s healthy. The Czech version of cheers is “To (your) health”, and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told “beer isn’t alcohol”. Well, sceptic that I am I preferred to err on the side of caution. This morning I went to visit my doctor, to get the results of an all over check-up I decided to have done. Basically I hadn’t been to the doctor for 3 years, liked to think of myself as reasonably healthy but didn’t want to get complacent. It had also occurred to me that I do like a drink and am wary of the dangers of making the excuse (however true) that most of my friends here drink more than I do – this, after all, is the Czech Republic, Europe’s hardest drinking nation, check out the stats. More often than not I exceed the recommended 28 units of alcohol per week for adult males, furthermore at 160 cm tall I am only a fraction of the size of a normal adult male.

So in the traditional post-Christmas season of the hair shirt I decided to give up alcohol for a month, towards the end of which I thought it might be an opportune time to have myself checked out. As it turned out when I went to the doctor 3 weeks ago I was suffering from flu, but reasoned that this would probably have little influence on the more fundamental, long-term type tests I was undergoing. The doctor took a urine sample, ordered an appointment for me to have a blood test at the hospital and tested my blood pressure, which, to my dismay, he informed me was unusually high for a man of my age and may need treatment if it hadn’t improved by my next visit in a few weeks. A week later I had my blood sample taken, after which I immediately went back out on the piss.

Today I returned to better news. My liver is in fine shape, my cholesterol level apparently exemplary. Blood pressure? The doctor tested me again, this time absolutely fine. He told me everything was in order, but that I shouldn’t eat too much salt (I don’t) or drink mineral water. So it’s in fact possible if not probable that my temporary high blood pressure was caused by the fact that I had swapped my usual drink of beer for mineral water that month. Treacherous false friends, these non-alcoholic beverages. Not only a foul penance to imbibe, mineral water is actually more expensive than beer in this country, and I am now told by no less an authority than my doctor that it is less healthy. Only in the Czech Republic. God I love this country sometimes.


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