Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Get your cholesterol checked!

[We interrupt the usual series of tech related posts for an important message.]

Get your cholesterol checked!!!

Without going into TMI, high cholesterol poses a serious threat for me. As evidence of a whimsical higher power, I am unable to tolerate statins or any other substance that improves one's lipid profile. In fact, I could make a living as a test subject. If I can't tolerate it, it's probably effective at controlling cholesterol.

Back in late 2004, my profile was total cholesterol(TC) 263, HDL 47, TC/HDL 5.60, LDL 186, triglycerides 152. At my sister's suggestion insistence, I tried Joel Fuhrman's Eat To Live diet. Six weeks later, TC 189, HDL 45, TC/HDL 4.20, LDL 128, triglycerides 82!

I knew what I should do to maintain the improvement. I was successful through 2008, when I had a test that showed that things hadn't changed since 2002. I also decided to stop having my cholesterol checked. Since there were no drugs I could use to manage it, there seemed little point in worrying about it.

That seemed like a sensible decision at the time. "My cholesterol will do what it will do. I'm already doing everything I can do. Why let myself panic and ruin my quality of life should things change?"

In retrospect, it was stupid. It assumed I would continue with healthy behavior! However, I'm human and, as one of my colleagues who ran an obesity clinic, once remarked, "Fear is good for about a year." It was certainly true of me. Over time, I got sloppy. I let the occasional exception (luncheon meetings, social get togethers) become the rule rather than the exception. The wake up call came this summer.

My lipid profile at the end of July was curious. While my TC was only 219, the way it got there was not good at all. HDL 34, TC/HDL 6.44, LDL 145, triglycerides 201. Very ugly HDL and triglyceride values. I decided to back to Fuhrman. What else could I do?

While I knew the Fuhrman diet would lower my cholesterol, I wasn't sure what it would do when the total cholesterol, while high, wasn't off the chart. I got rechecked after only 5 weeks rather than 6 because the sixth week would have taken me over the Labor Day weekend and I was afraid I might stray. The numbers are enough to make me wish I'd waited the additional week. TC 201, HDL 39, TC/HDL 5.15, LDL 135, triglycerides 135! (Not a typo. LDL and triglycerides were the same.)

There was movement. It was not as much as 9 years ago, but I'd only gone 5 weeks instead of 6. My plan now is to get retested at the start of October and again in early November before a cardiology appointment.

So, what have I learned from this that I would like to pass on?

  • It's very easy to think of treatment in terms of medications. I couldn't take medications, so I couldn't be treated. Wrong! As my lipid profile shows, now twice, diet alone can do much of what medications do.
  • If I'd kept on top of my cholesterol levels, I would likely have seen hard evidence of the effect of what my so-called exceptions were doing to me, long before my wake up call.

Anyone in a similar situation--cholesterol levels are an issue and medications aren't an option--shouldn't give up. If I can do fine with careful monitoring of diet and lipid levels, then anyone can!