Tuesday, September 22, 2009

LDL is no LOL matter

You Have the Fears of an Adult
Your fears don't paralyze you - they are very rooted in reality.
You have had enough loss in your life to know more is to come, and you dread it.
Compared to most people, you deal with your fears well. They don't ruin your life.
Your fears are strong and very real, but you try to let them go. You know you can't control what happens.

Some months ago I took this quiz:
Do You Have the Fears of a Child or an Adult?
(Click link to take the test yourself.)

I'm posting the results (above) now because I have a bit of adult fear going on due to results from blood work done in the course of a physical I had earlier this month. The rest of my physical was great: all systems go. But it seems that my total cholesterol has alarmed my doctor by going from 250 in 2007 to 262 this year. The weird break-out of good and bad cholesterol that, combined, makes this total is: 

Bad cholesterol (LDL) = 152
Good cholesterol (HDL = 101

According to my wonderful family doctor, the average good cholesterol count for his patients in my age range is 40. Forty! He said my count is phenomenal and is what's been "protecting" me. I don't like to think about what it's been protecting me from. Hell, until two weeks ago I couldn't have told you which was which, LDL or HDL. Those were just alphabet letters to me until my doctor began talking options for controlling the LDL letters in my blood. 

Until a repeat blood test eight weeks from now he said I can try to lower it with exercise and a change in diet. "Cut out the red meat and pork, and reduce dairy," he said. When I told him I had not eaten red meat or pork since 1976 (it's in my chart but how can he be expected to remember every little nuance about me written there over the last 20 years?) he said it's likely, then, that I've inherited this...that it's in my genes. My mind was whirring as I agreed to try a statin drug for eight weeks to see what happens. What I failed to tell my doctor was that in the last few months I'd consumed a few pints of Haagen Dazs ice cream and two Safeway cheesecakes. Also, the night prior to the blood test Mike talked me into eating Chinese out, although I had mentioned that I didn't want msg or extra greases to sway my test the next day. I didn't mention that to my doctor either. Instead, I filled the prescription and took the first statin pill that evening. 

Then Mike started doing online research into statins as I read the printout from my pharmacy that accompanied the prescription. Good God. What a fright the various side effects can be, none that I'm willing to risk unless absolutely necessary. I decided that I would not continue the prescription and would instead increase my exercise and really watch cholesterol in my diet, and see what the test shows eight weeks on. So for the first time in my life I've been reading labels for that magical 0% cholesterol rating, which has seemed so strange. I've never had to diet in my life and basically have been totally spoiled by being able to eat whatever I wanted. Same thing with exercise; it wasn't something I had to do for weight control. In the last year I really haven't been exercising enough and that most definitely has to change as a lifestyle commitment. I love exercise and I don't really understand how I got away from it. Well, yes I do. I used to be a power walker and a hiker. Then we got our dogs and the entire world of walking changed around dog exercise pace. Both dogs are too old to take to the hills for a rigorous hike and this means that if Mike and I plan a hike it must be a short one leaving the dogs at home, or boarding them if we wanted to do a day hike. Obviously, it's time to think of myself and work out the doggie arrangements. 


So, how did fear come into play in this cholesterol drama? It came today when I called my brother, Tony, in Duluth to wish him a happy birthday. We talked for 40 minutes and had a great time catching up. Tony and I have different mothers and we met for the first time when I was 21 and drove cross country with a woman (and her daughter) who worked at the savings-and-loan where I had a part-time college job. Her mother lived in Mankato, Minnesota, where my other brother, Richard, lives and it was quite an odyssey sharing the driving for the opportunity to meet my brothers, paternal grandparents, and my father that summer long ago. 

Because we weren't raised together I've consulted Tony about family history on our father's side, including the occasional health-related issue. Like today. When I brought up this whole cholesterol thing and he immediately said, "It's probably your genes. Richard has been on statins for years now and I have been on them for a couple of years." He said that Richard experiences some of the side effects (muscle and joint pain). I wanted to cry. But I didn't. 

This is definitely a case of knowledge being power. I'm grateful to have this information to share with my doctor in order for us to make the best decisions for my health care. My intention is to do as I planned and not take the damned drug for these eight weeks while at the same time increasing exercise and not eating foods containing cholesterol.  Then, if a repeated blood test shows little change I'll research naturopathic or Ayurvedic remedies. Of course if I must I'll take the damned statin drug.

As my yoga teacher said to the class a few years ago when one of her knees prevented her from assuming a particular position, "Aging is humbling." Which reminds me. I absolutely need to get back to a serious yoga practice.


Owen said...

Hi Lydia... we're not getting any younger I guess... biological clocks have a way of ticking, and bringing us surprises... the health equivalent of owning cats... as in, oh boy, look what the cat drug in...

Funny, when I opened your page just now, there were three different music players in the sidebar that all started playing simultaneously... the combined result was, well, less than musical... you may want to check that... unless it's a new form of music, like recombinant DNA ?

Jennifer said...

Lydia -- I hope the diet changes work, or that your results were an anomaly. I know my mother had a "bad" cholesterol result a while back and all was fine when she was retested (she's always had great numbers, too, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I got those genes.). Keep us posted.

Looking to the Stars said...

Lydia, my heart goes out to you. I think you are being very wise in not taking the drug now and doing other things to try to get your level down. I have my fingers crossed for you that this will do the trick!

Hang in there, kiddo. I know its scary, just take baby steps. All of us are here for you and rooting for you :)

distracted by shiny objects said...

I hear ya, sister. Had a phone message waiting for me when I got home from work last night--total cholesterol is 236. Other #'s were okay(so far...). Hubby has got me talked into trying Benefiber once a day to increase fiber, which I believe, is supposed to pull cholesterol out of the blood stream. Thus, the Cheerio's, oatmeal therapy. And he's also singing the more exercise mantra. A daily walk in my case, but after I'm on my feet for 12hrs?? I don't even want to walk to find the remote control, so if SpongeBob is on, SpongeBob stays on.Of course, in that case, "The Big One" would be most welcome:>)

~ Tabitha ~ said...

We live and learn,that is what's most important Lydia.In fact,it can be liberating to research ways to stay healthy - in natural ways,as we age.I love the idea of Yoga.I'm not there yet.Kudos to you for all you're doing for yourself..keep at it! I am on Bee Pollen,acupuncture and practicing my daily rituals with much more gratitude than ever..We've got to let our fears encourage us to change : )

Come visit me again soon at my new bloggy.. http://tabithamontgomery.blogspot.com/

Lydia said...

***Regarding Owen's comments about my music players: if anyone else has this happen here please let me know asap. I have checked the settings, and have the controls on so that automatic start should not be happening. If this recurs I'll remove them! Thanks.

@Owen- Loved your analogy to what cats drag in. When Willow was cuddled up on my pillow this morning I thought that at least she's keeping my blood pressure at it's great levels (pets have been proven to lower blood pressure)!

@Jennifer- I hadn't even thought about the false reading. That's encouraging. I sure hope you get all the best genes from both sides.
It's an important issue: when one doesn't have info about their genes they seem more at risk...at least for worrying.

@Looking to the Stars- Thanks for the encouraging words. Yes, take baby steps for my adult fears!

@Distracted- Hmmm. Sister, indeed, and I'm sorry we share this particular malady. With you being a nurse I hope you'll let me know what works/doesn't work to lower your LDL, and I'll do the same. As far as being on your feet for 12 hours, doesn't that qualify as exercise?! Are you and your husband still dancing? That should take care of the exercise. Thanks for mentioning Benefiber. I guess I should try it.
Take care.

Deedee said...

This year for the first time, my count was up as well. Like you, the good numbers were very high and my doctor wasn't too concerned. Nonetheless, I started eating rough cut oatmeal in the morning and I've been trying to step up the exercise. Aging is a drag, but I guess it's better than the alternative...

English Rider said...

Hi Lydia,
me too, on the mixed music messages, although Simon Garfunkel won through.
Whatever else happens you will enjoy life more with some sweat-inducing exercise. It purges the brain and gets new thoughts spinning productively. Also bear in mind they always come up with contradictory studies- in a year or two they'll be telling us that cholesterol is good.

Rhiannon said...

I really wouldn't worry about this too much. Though, I'm not a Dr. but in alternative medicine, they poo poo this panic and such that anything at 200 or over is "Bad"...I have studied alternative medicine and been involved in it for years, along with being a medical assistant way back when. I will be curious when and if you see an alternative medicine type Dr. about this and what they might say??

I'm going to e-mail you a web site link and let you read some more info about the Cholesterol "panic" that we here in America do all the time.

The fact that you haven't eaten red meat and such for a while should tell you something..but don't overdue on the soy as that might stimulate too much estrogen. There is a lot of info out there for you to make decisions about these kind of things.

I'll try to e-mail you the link tonite...I have your e-mail address.

Don't panic...

Love and Blessings,


Owen said...

When I came back this evening there was just the one music player this time... Simon and Fargunkel doing Bookends...

Am off to eat some scrambled eggs... is that ok for cholesterol? Hmm, probably not, but I like them, and I try to exercise as much as possible...

Nancy said...

I have been putting off that blood test. I have a phobia about doctors! Ghaaaa

We've been hiking but not enough walking. My husband is great about exercising but I seem to make excuses. This post is going to get me going. Thanks.

Lydia said...

@Tabitha- Great new blog you have there! Thanks for the new link and for your sage words of advice here, especially that last line!
(I came this close to calling a new yoga teacher in town about her schedule today.)

@Deedee- Your little avatar is so adorable. :)
Good to know I have company, and I also ate rough cut oatmeal all last winter and have some left over that, now you've brought this subject up, I'll cook up in the morning!

@English Rider- Ah, yet more words of wisdom! You're right, I will feel better with regular exercise.
I deleted the other two music players, keeping S&G. Now a new comment from Owen advises that he still hears the one upon entering my blog. I just changed one more setting. If that doesn't do the trick, then goodbye to that one. :)

@Rhi- And yet more wisdom. Wow, I'm getting some great advice. I have not/probably won't check email today but will see what you sent tomorrow. Thank you so much for all the support.

@Owen- You are so kind to return to test the music player conundrum again. See my message to English Rider above...
Yuh, the yolks in those scrambled eggs are loaded with cholesterol. I love eggs. Great source of protein. Last week I treated myself to brunch at IHOP (do you remember that in the states?) and for the first time in my life I had egg substitute scrambled. It was ok. But what in the heck is it made out of besides egg whites, I wonder...

Lydia said...

@Nancy- I hope you won't have a phobia about my not replying to your comments! Your comment must have been in the queue when I was responding to others earlier....
I wish I could loan you my doctor; he'd rid you of the phobia. He's going to be 81 this year and has no plans to retire (his patients truly live in horror thinking about that time).
I loved your recent photos of a hike, and I will definitely think about you when I'm walking (mutual inspiration).

the watercats said...

Sorry to hear about your dillema!.. it never fails to confuse me, the whole issue of side effects versus the actual symptoms, it seems some of the drugs can be as bad, if not worse!.. It never fails to surprise me too how sneaky all the bad things are.. things creep into food somehow without our knowledge, then bam!.. hope everything turns out for the best, I reckon the excersize will do the job for you.. best wishes :-)

World Vitamins Online said...

The first step to getting your cholesterol under control is to have it tested. Once you know what your numbers are and mean, you can measure the success or failure of any cholesterol management program you follow

Indigo said...

It's perfectly understandable having the fears you do hon. I know I never thought I would be diagnosed with Emphysema at the young age of 43 but I was.

There are those frightening moments when it's hard to breath. But for the most part it's an incurable lung disease. So I take care of myself, stay away from smokers and dust. Kind of hard to get around pet hair since I have 4 inside cats and a working dog. The thing is it's manageable.

I was one of those people who never worried about my diet either. Unfortunately Acid Reflux is a common side effect of Emphysema sufferers. So I have to watch my tomato intake (acidity) and par down on dairy and spicy foods.

I know sounds dreadful doesn't it. But you know, I look at it this way, it's a small price to pay to still get up every morning.

I have faith you will get the cholesterol down. As you said forewarned is forewarned. (Hugs)Indigo

Lydia said...

@Indigo- We are more connected than I realized. You really don't know how your sharing about this has helped me. More later. Hugs in return.



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