Chubby Blood

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I had a bit of a nasty surprise this week.

On Tuesday, I went to the doctor’s office to have my routine thyroid check done and my prescription renewed. Usually I just have some blood drawn to measure my TSH, but because it’s been a long while since my last total health checkup, the doctor ordered a full blood work up.

On Wednesday, the nurse called. “We got most of your test results back. Your thyroid is perfect, so we renewed your prescription. All your other numbers so far are terrific! We’re just waiting on the lipid panel now, so we’ll call you when we get it.” “Great!” I said, righteously sure that I was only reaping the just rewards of my healthy diet.

Yesterday, the nurse called again. “Well, we have the rest of your blood work results. I’m afraid it’s not good news.” My heart skipped a beat. She went on, “Your cholesterol is high. It’s 266. And your LDL (that’s the bad cholesterol) is 183.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, “I don’t know what the numbers are supposed to be.”

“Your total cholesterol should be less than 200, and an optimal LDL level is below 100, so your readings are pretty high. Were you fasting before the test?” I said no. Apparently, she explained, cholesterol readings can be skewed quite a bit by food that is eaten shortly before having blood drawn. I breathed a sigh of relief as the nurse scheduled me for a follow up test this morning, to be preceded by a 12 hour fast.

Hungry and anxious, I drove back to the doctor’s office after dropping Katie off at school to have my blood drawn again. Since it was just a cholesterol test this time, they were able to process the results on site in about ten minutes.

The verdict? Total cholesterol: 264. LDL: 178. Chubby blood.

I talked for a few minutes with Mark, our doctor, about my choices. Unlike some patients, I can’t make many improvements in my diet. I already eat a low-fat, whole foods diet full of lean meats and lots of fruits and vegetables, and have been since January. Most people on the South Beach Diet boast vastly improved cholesterol numbers; why not me? I agreed to add some oats to my largely grain-free menu, but Mark couldn’t suggest any other alterations. I also vowed to take up exercising with a dedication that has been–shall we say–a bit lacking in most of my previous efforts. All the same, Mark says that most people can only effect about a 10% change in their blood lipid levels through lifestyle change alone. Most high cholesterol problems are genetic, and many have to be treated with statin drugs. Instructed to come back in three months for another blood test, I was released to drive home, my mind whirling with new information.

Of course, I hopped on the internet as soon as I could and started researching both statins and natural remedies for high cholesterol. The news was mixed. Possible side effects like muscle fatigue, cognitive losses, and heart weakness make statins sound like more trouble than what they’re trying to fix. And I really hate the idea of relying on yet another prescription medicine to regulate something that my body should be regulating on its own. But some of the more natural alternatives look promising. I also found that there is some dissension among medical professionals as to the significance of various numbers. Many of them say that more important than the individual numbers themselves is the ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) to LDL. Mine is very good. And my triglycerides are low, another good sign.

So I don’t know what to think.

Foolishly, I always imagined only older people had high cholesterol. It never crossed my mind to be concerned about it for myself. I mean, here I am, thirty-four years old, within five pounds of my goal weight, and eating better than I have in years, only to find out that my circulation system never got the memo.

And I’m a little ticked off about it, to tell you the truth.

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14 responses »

  1. I hate it when my body does crazy things, too. I hope you can find something natural to help. And I don’t blame you for being mad. I would be, too. I’ve seen how you eat and even though I tease a little about the salads, I admire your dedication.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about this. You said “I really hate the idea of relying on yet another prescription medicine…” Could another medicine you’re on be elevating those levels? (Just wondering.)

  3. I think you are wise to look into natural remedies before just popping another pill. Do you have a Vitamin World nearby? I used to work at one and we had some great info. on lowering cholesterol with natural supplements. On a happier note- congrats on being so close to your goal weight, girl. That is so awesome!

  4. coenzyme 10 (CoQ 10) and red rice yeast are supplements that are supposed to lower cholesterol.

    Also, my MIL recently went thru a detox, not for weight (she’s always been tiny, ugh!) but for total health (fatigue, etc). She discovered she had a gluten allergy among a couple other things thru the help of a whole health gynecologist. Since she altered her diet, she has seen her cholesterol improve so much that her regular doctor said even drugs couldn’t have done that. I can get you in touch with her if you are interested.

  5. I’m a shadow reader! I’m always sad on days you don’t post. It was too difficult to leave a message on your old blog. Try reading The New 8-Week Cholesterol Cure by Robert E. Kowalski. Even though the name sounds very “quick cure-all”, it is not that at all. It is very well researched. You might want to check it out. Best of luck with this!

  6. Thank you guys so much for the support and information! It means more than you know.

    After doing some more research, I am determined not to be put on statin drugs. I’m going to look into all the possible natural solutions before I even consider taking a prescription medication with dubious side effects. I think with oat bran, more exercise, and possibly some herbal supplements, I could make a good change in my results.

    Jen–I don’t mind the teasing about the salads; it makes me feel loved. But I hope Kathy didn’t really mean it when she said I was more fun on ice cream. Hmmmm….

    Melissa–When I was referring to “yet another” prescription med, I was thinking of my thyroid medication, which replaces the hormones NOT being made by my malfunctioning thyroid, but that shouldn’t affect my cholesterol. Good thought, though!

    Sarah–We don’t have a Vitamin World, but we just got a Super Supplements, so I may pop around there and see what they have. And thanks! I’m excited to be within spittin’ distance of my goal!

    Amy–Thanks for the supplement names. I found a product called Bio Lipitrol that is herbal and I’m looking into it. I think it has both of those in it.

    Jenni–I love hearing from someone who’s been reading for a while! Thank you for the book recommendation; it sounds like just the sort of thing I’m looking for. I’m glad you’re able to post more easily on my new blogging platform!

  7. I think you have made a good decision for now. Many people have difficulty with the statin drugs. One person I know said flax seeds or flax seed oil did wonders. Another eats oatmeal with flax seeds every day and said that works. I love how proactive you are.

  8. “side effects like muscle fatigue, cognitive losses, and heart weakness” …aren’t those also some of the side effects of having children?

  9. I second the oatmeal with flax seeds every morning. My aunt eats that without fail and it has done wonders for her. Shoot, it does wonders for everyone!

  10. Hi Katrina!

    I just stumbled over to your new diggs and thought I might offer a bit of advice my doctor told me about my cholesterol situation.

    Of course he said that beyond genetics, diet and exercise are the biggest changes you can make. However, he did say that the only food/nutritional item you can take that both lowers bad cholesterol AND raises good cholesterol without raising your overall number is…alcohol.

    I asked if wine or beer mattered and he said not for cholesterol purposes it doesn’t. He was very insistant on just one glass. Anymore than one glass will have compromising effects.

    Now, I haven’t taken him up on it mainly because the only number that was a little off was my HDL and it was only low by 5 or so points. I figure I can make that up with just a little modification in diet and exercise here and there.

    I’m not sure how you feel about alcohol but I thought I’d pass it along anyhow and let you decide.

    Good luck! I’ll read ya again soon!

  11. Katrina–

    I got the same results recently. And my thyroid levels were a bit off, so they are trying to regulate them, and then they’ll check the cholesteral again. I’m not sure what my numbers were, but I think they were close to yours. I know diet is a big part of my problem. I have started walking, which should help. I heard about the flax seed and also fish oil capsules. The only bad thing about those are I feel like I burp up fish taste all day. I need to get a little more serious about fighting this thing. I really don’t want to go on cholesteral medicine. My mom has been having some bad side effects from hers, with really bad leg pains. A little self-discipline…that is what I need. Then I can see if it is directly food related, or more a genetic thing.

  12. I have been in a constant battle with my health since I had a baby about 18 months ago. My overall cholesterol level was 299! You can imagine how scared and surprised I was to hear this being 32 years old and weighing 110 lbs! I went and sought help through a naturopathic doctor since I didn’t want to be put on Lipitor for the rest of my life. She put me on Bio-Lipitrol and told me to eat lean meats only and lots of fruit/veggies and whole grains. Also told me to have 2 tbs of flaxseed oil a day along with 1 tbs of ground flaxseed oil (I mix them with a smoothie and can’t even taste it). Well, 3 months later I had my levels rechecked and surprise, surprise…my total level dropped down to 187!!! Yay! So if it worked for me maybe it will work for you too! Best of luck!

  13. Thanks, Evelyn! I keep hearing about this Bio-Lipitrol and it sounds like it has pretty good results in just about everyone. I think that’s the direction I’m going to go, since I already do the lean meats and fruits and veggies thing.

    I’ll have to post an update when I get rechecked!

  14. I began taking bio-lipitrol today and wonder what the most effective dose per day is as well as timing (before meals, during or after).

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