When I was 34 my father underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He was 61 (or 5 years older than I am today). He’d had some vague symptoms for several years before unstable angina forced the surgery. Those symptoms were always attributed to something else. He never had a screening blood test that might show his high cholesterol; nor did he have a stress test. (My how things have changed in 20 years!)
My reaction to this event was to see my own physician, get a screening blood test and see where I stood. Turns out, I was not in good condition. While I looked like a healthy woman in her prime, my lipid profile more resembled an old man. Total cholesterol: 268, HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind that at time was supposed to be over 35).. 18. Had I not gotten tested and acted when I did, there is a very good chance that I would not be alive to be writing with you today.
I’d be dead of heart disease.
Now when I tell my doctor my HDL was 18 he’s convinced I remember that number incorrectly because he’s never seen a number that low. But I remember that switching from red meat to chicken only and increasing my daily walk to 5 miles a day only raised that number to 19. And this is the one that doctors everywhere say can be raised to a healthy level with diet and exercise.
Not for me. Not for most people whose cholesterol is a genetic factor.
Anyway. I’ve been on the lowest dose of a cholesterol lowering drug ever since. For the past 8 years I take Lipitor (or the generic equivalant) at the 10 mg. level. These drugs work so well for me (and demonstrate that my ancestors in Eastern Europe were among the tribes of people who got these drugs naturally in their milk and cheese), that within 6 weeks I dropped into the healthy range. From 3x risk of heart disease death to 1/2 risk. (note; they don’t use these risk numbers on tests anymore).
I’ve stayed there ever since.
Now some of you might remember that my last blood test was in January. A stupid time to get bloodwork, being just after the holidays with thier challenges to diet. A time when stress can effect your body (and blood chemstry) too. At that time, I had 4 readings at or out of range: total cholesterol was 200; triglicerides were 151; my liver enzyme was 36; my fasting glucose was 100.
Given the really hard work I’d been doing, the careful diet, and the weight loss having four numbers sitting at “too high/out of range/something to watch” made me a very grumpy gal. I was doing all this work to get healthy and the test indicated that I was failing.My doctor told me I was still one of the healthiest patients in his office. I had just kicked-butt in my stress test. I looked great. He wasn’t going to worry until my test 6 months later.
For my birthday last week, I went and got my semi-annual bloodwork done. (the only down side of taking a statin). The numbers this time were a happy reward for my hard work:
Total Cholesterol: 162 (the goal for genetic risk is keep it under 170)
Trigycerides: 53 (goal under 153)
LDL Cholesterol: 80 (goal for 1 risk factor is under 130)
HDL Cholesterol: 71 (goal now is over 45)
Liver Enzyme: in range at 28
Fasting Glucose: 96 (normal is 65-99).
Happy girl I am now. All the tests are saying Healthy Girl I am now, too.
We women are quick to nag other women to get mammograms. We occasionally even throw in PAP smears and the +50 bone density test. Let me remind you all that at the same time you are getting your annual exams, it really doesn’t take much extra work to get a lipid profile. And it could save your life.
So what are you numbers?