Friday, May 27, 2011


up until the last few years, this delightful picture of homer simpson would have summed up my attitude towards that steroid/fat called cholesterol which our body actually produces.  if i thought of cholesterol at all, i thought it was an an ingredient that the FDA was adding to meat to make us all love it even more.  if shannon made a particularly good steak, i would chew it with deep admiration while commenting, "mmmm, the cholesterol in this rib eye is really tasty.  make sure you go back to that butcher next time." 

okay, i'm joking.  but i didnt' know much about cholesterol.  until 2008 when my doctor (at the time) did some blood work on me and saw that my good cholesterol was a tad bit low, and my bad cholesterol was borderline high.  i don't mean that i was one small french fry away from a quadruple bypass, but that i was someone who should probably stop treating cholesterol like the top of the food pyramid.  this is where my story starts. i got a call from a physician's assistant a few days later who told me that the doctor wanted to get me started on a statin drug for high cholesterol.  wait, what?  really?  that's it?  the doctor doesn't even want to talk to me first? 

well, i wasn't satisfied with this.  i called back to get my actual numbers, and then shannon and i did a ton of online research, discovering both that my cholesterol, while higher than we would like, was not in any kind of danger area and that statins are drugs with a great deal of other effects, and we just weren't sure that i wanted to start taking them at age 32, for the rest of my meat-eating life.  so we did more research and i decided i wanted to try and manage my cholesterol by (1) actually thinking about it, (2) exercising, and (3) getting a book about it that would help me shape a diet which would focus on lowering my cholesterol.  i called my doctor to tell her this, but of course i only got the physician's assistant (i can only assume the doc was in a meeting with representatives from the pharmaceutical companies), and she was displeased with my report.  she reiterated, "the doctor STRONGLY urges you to go on the statin." 

"well, i hear that, but i'm determined to try this route first and see if i can take care of it this way, and then if i cannot, we'll have to go that route." 

the doctor never did talk to me. 

but my cholesterol did go down. 

and then we started with the possible 'moving to pennsylvania' thing, and i got distracted by all of that and i started eating like a lion at a wildebeest convention.  and my attention to my cholesterol went out the window.  so when i finally met with my new (and MUCH better) doctor a couple of months ago and he told me that we should do some bloodwork to see where my cholesterol stands now, i got nervous.  and when i went to see the doctor yesterday (i actually got to see the doctor, not a p.a.!), i got some great news:  my cholesterol is quite good!  i still need to raise my good cholesterol a bit (a glass of red wine a day shouldn't hurt), but my bad and my triglycerides were in really great shape.  in short, i need to keep doing what i'm doing (eating well, working out, staying away from too much red meat, etc.), and i should be fine.  my cholesterol levels are better at age 35 than at age 32!  and without drugs!  take that, new jersey doctor!  how do you like them pills?  (okay, i know it's supposed to be apples, but you see what i'm trying to do here). 

the lesson here?  do your research!  if you don't like the plan prescribed by your doctor, look into it. it may be the best way, but it also might not be.  then talk to your doctor about what you are thinking.  any doctor worth his/her salt will be willing to have that conversation with you to determine the best possible course of action.  if not, run, don't run, to a new doctor immediately.  oh, that, and also please don't treat cholesterol like a uber-delicious meat additive.  turns out its not.  darn. 

in an interesting twist to this story, my wife, who is always the picture of health, has higher cholesterol than i do right now!  turns out it is because she is pregnant, and when a woman is pregnant her body is doing all sorts of crazy things to make sure that baby gets the nutrients it needs, so all those chemical compounds produced by the body are going crazy.  so when i told her what my numbers were, she wasn't too happy that mine was actually lower than hers!  i'm laughing about this, but she wasn't so thrilled. 

hope everyone has a healthy day. 


Bill Uebbing said...

Good for you, Greg. You should be proud. Even after 30 pounds of weight loss, increased exercise and A LOT of red wine, my ratio was still bad.
So, I am on the statin and going to stay for now. Doc says another 10-15 pounds and we can talk again.
So, now it's 2.6 miles a day walking instead of 2.1 and better portions.
Maybe I will get to blog about dropping my statin in November when I see the doc!

Emoly said...

I echo the good for you Greg, it used to be that doctors talked to you about diet and exercise first, before even thinking about using the drugs. My flute teacher had high cholesterol and I remember she tried EVERYTHING before the doctor finally gave her pills (it turned out hers was all genetic and no amount of oatmeal could fix it). That is fantastic for you! Shannon's numbers will go back down once she has the baby.