We inherit many things from our parents. Some good; some not so good.
Like my high cholesterol. Every member of my immediate family has it: my mom, both brothers, and my dad, who died of heart related illness in his early 50s. So… my doctor pays pretty close attention to my numbers. And I have been taking a statin for years.
When I was first diagnosed, I tried lowering my cholesterol with diet and exercise. (The good thing about this otherwise negative familial trait: the girl previously chosen last in gym class finally started moving her butt). But I eventually figured out that while I could lower my total cholesterol eating well and working out, I still could not get it within normal limits. However, conversely, eating very poorly did indeed shoot those bad numbers up! Sigh.
So I’ve had my numbers checked twice a year for probably two decades or more. Thanks to the statins, my cholesterol is now almost always acceptable. Every so often there has been a little blip, and I suspect it was a time in my life when I was either eating particularly poorly (because there sure were a lot of those) or not exercising as much as usual
Which brings me to last December. What a horrible time of year to have my cholesterol tested! Yes, I had fallen prey once again to the holiday eating season and fallen off the wagon repeatedly for months and all that falling led to my weight doing anything but fall! As I’m sure you can imagine. Weight up, crap ingested, but fortunately my numbers were still acceptable. Except for my LDL, the bad cholesterol. It was normal by most standards, but above what my doctor wants to see for someone with my family history. For those of you up on your cholesterol stats, it was 113. (This is the highest it’s been in a decade!) And my HDL (aka the good cholesterol), while still a very acceptable number, was down from sixths months previous, when I had been cruising along on my healthy living journey with nary a wagon-falling incident in site.
Fast forward to my latest blood-work results. I had high expectations. In the last sixth months my eating has, overall, been pretty darn good, if I say so myself. Not perfect, but overall healthy. And unquestionably much, much, much better than last fall. My weight is back down. My exercise is back up. Bring it on, phlebotomist!
And then I come to a screeching halt. In the face of my unusual optimism, I see reality staring back at me. That darn LDL (the bad cholesterol, remember) was exactly what it had been in December. December! The height of holiday eating season. What?! On a positive note, my good cholesterol had gone up. But that just raised my total number too. At least my ratio of total to HDL was better. For whatever that’s worth.
So what message do I get from my doctor? Again, lower the LDL to below 100. The nurse who called with my results told me to eat less animal fat. Hello, people! My summer diet was already pretty darn low in animal fat. So, gotta look for other changes to make. Like how about all that cheese I eat. Maybe the saturated fat content is too high. Wait! Does dairy count as an animal product?! The math is complicated but my husband helped me figure it out. Okay, less cheese might be in order. Or fat-free, which is pretty tasteless in my experience. Not much else I can think to cut from my diet because it really is pretty healthy right now.
But there are two ways to lower the bad cholesterol: eat less of what raises it or eat more of what lowers it. Based on the nurse’s comment, I consider the first option first. As for the second approach, adding foods known or likely to lower cholesterol, I already eat several of them. To add more means I have to cut out something else. That old calorie equation, remember. So I guess I need to take a closer look at my diet and see where I can make some adjustments.
Seems like it’s always something. Oh for the days when food was just something I put in my mouth with no thinking involved.
Do you know your cholesterol numbers? Have you had to make any adjustments to your eating based on that or other medical conditions?