A 45-Year-Old Man Walks Into a Gym...
Credit: Photograph by Michael Edwards

Before I did any renovating, I needed to find out what kind of raw materials I was dealing with. Any man looking for a thorough assessment of his physical state would be hard-pressed to find a place better equipped than the Iris Cantor Men's Health Center at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan. It was conceived as a place where a man can see several specialists in one visit to get a full picture of his health. Once I arrived, urologist Dr. Steven Kaplan, the center's director, and his colleagues set about quantifying the metabolic me.

Their blood and urine tests yielded more information than a 44-year-old in reasonable health needs to know, including calculations of red blood cell distribution, iron saturation, and glucose, which were all fairly unremarkable. There's even a number to quantify the strength of my urinary stream. (Race horse, apparently.) There were more typical tests, too – ones that measured things like cholesterol levels and testosterone, which was surprisingly low, given my general susceptibility to road rage, distractibility, and other forms of male idiocy. But as both doctors remind me, as a healthy patient with no troubling symptoms (my breasts aren't sore, and I'm experiencing no sexual dysfunction), this was a minor deficiency I'd never be aware of otherwise.

The complete profile of my physical state is still only a sketch, and I'm already regretting my decision to sit for a portrait. Things can only get worse, I think as I remove my pants and lie flat on the Lunar iDXA body scan, a state-of-the-art GE diagnostic tool that will slowly scan my body and measure, with X-ray-enabled precision, what portion is fat and what portion is muscle. The six-minute scan produces a full-color rendering of the fat that's gathered around my middle and along my hips. Then it goes one better by also producing a multipage document calculating the body-fat density of every surface, every limb, each side of my torso, my hips, everything. It tells me that my more dominant right arm is 23.5 percent fat (hardly gunlike), while my left is even chubbier, at 26.2 percent. My android region around the waist, an area the literature cruelly describes as "fat often associated with apple-shape bodies," is 27.8 percent while the gynoid region around my hips, "fat associated with pear-shape bodies," is 26.2 percent. I have no idea what the difference is, but I wonder how hard I'll have to work before the body scan stops comparing me to fruit.

A few days later, Dr. Hugo calls me with test results and points out a few areas of concern: One is my LDL, that sinister cholesterol, which he has tallied at 110 mg/dL. It's not alarmingly high by any stretch, but it's "above optimal." The other is more exotic: an enzyme found in the liver, called AST, which Dr. Hugo tells me is high enough (93 IU/L) to indicate some "unhappiness." I've seen this movie before. "You might want to cut back on the alcohol," he suggests gently. And really, who am I to deny my liver a happy life?