Friday, December 31, 2010

The Cholesterol War Has Begun

On the 23rd I went to a new primary care physician to establish myself as a patient.  My old GP was located 20 minutes away and I wanted someone who specialized in women's health more local to me.  Not to mention more flexible office hours.  In fact, they have several locations within the local area and have walk-in sick hours six days a week.  Wonderful!  I scheduled my appointment and looked forward to getting established.

I was called back to the exam room just as I was finishing my new patient paperwork, which was still about five minutes before my appointment.  I was instructed to change into a fabric gown and I sat, waiting for the doctor, for around ten minutes.  When she got there, she asked me questions about my family's health history and went over my new patient forms.  She asked several times throughout if I had any questions or concerns, making sure to listen to what I had to say.  The prime focus, other than establishing myself as a patient, was to determine my blood levels of vitamins to see how I should supplement and find out what my lipid levels were.  A blood panel was ordered, and since I had not eaten yet that morning, I was able to have my blood drawn right there in the office.  That was super convenient because I know how backed up the local lab can get during the day.  I had my blood drawn, and waited for the results.

Four days later I got a call from the office.  It sounded like my LDL was elevated and I asked for a copy of the results so I could pour over them in greater detail.  I had my results from my July 2008 blood work and wanted to see how everything compared.  Generally everything was about the same this time around as in 2008, except for my lipids.

In 2008 I had 174 total cholesterol, 85 triglycerides, 58 HDL, and 99 LDL (3.0 ratio of total/HDL).  This time around I came in at 192 total, 86 triglycerides, 56 HDL, and 119 LDL (3.4 ratio).  The good news?  Based on the American Heart Association's website, my triglycerides are well below 150 mg/dL which is the upper end of the normal range.  The bad news?  Pretty much everything else (bad is relative here because I'm not terribly out of wack, yet).

My total cholesterol is 192 mg/dL; the upper range of desirable is 199 mg/dL, so I'm tickling that number now.  Starting at 200 mg/dL I would be borderline high.  My HDL went down by two points; no good since this is my good cholesterol.  Less than 50 mg/dL is low for women, with 60 mg/dL and above being protective against heart disease.  I'm doing okay right now, but I need to do better.  My LDL at 119 mg/dL is near/above optimal, with optimal at less than 100 mg/dL.  This is where the most improvement needs to be seen.  If I dropped this number by 20 points, I'd be well in the normal total cholesterol range at 172.

So how did I get here?  I don't think I can blame genetics.  My father and brother have both struggled with high cholesterol (and blood pressure), but I have yet to notice any effects (case in point, my 2008 lipid results).  I'm sure that things change as you age, but my brother was having issues years ago, and he's my younger brother.  My body has always "appeared" to have been created from my mother's genes anyway, so I'll keep this card in my back pocket.  Diet?  I would say "no" on this front too.  I'm careful about what I put into my body, so it's probably not this either.  Exercise?  Iffy.  I trained the first half of this year, and have been keeping up with pilates at least once per week, so while lately I haven't been exercising as much as I should, I've still been up and moving around (e.g. working on a patio every weekend for several months).

So what could it be?  My guess is stress.  My job has been challenging for quite some time now, and it has only gotten worse in the recent past (and will continue to do so through about April of next year).  A coworker who recently suffered a near-fatal heart attack learned that the body creates 200 - 300% more cholesterol during stressful events.  If those events are prolonged, the body becomes loaded with cholesterol and catastrophic events such as heart attacks and stroke can occur.

What am I going to do about it?  For one thing, I'm watching my intake of diary and meat products.  I had already cut back in this area, so I'm making sure to be super conscience of which ones I choose.  Second, I need to increase my soluble fiber intake to help clean out the bad cholesterol.  Third, to get my HDL up, I need to increase my intake of fish (steering clear of the large, mercury-soaked versions) and probably take in a modest glass of red wine every day.  And for all fronts, I need to get back to regular exercise.  That's hard to do when work takes up many hours of my day, but it's important from the standpoint of my health.

I have to say that the wind was taken out of my sails when I got my lipid results.  "Me?  Are you sure?"  But, anything can happen to anyone no matter how healthy they appear to be.  I have one year to shape up before I go back for more blood work.  I think I have a goal for 2011 - correct the path that my cholesterol ship is taking!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chiropractic Care - Summary

After my post at the end of July, I continued once-per-week appointments for two weeks, then had one appointment two weeks after, one appointment three weeks after, then to once-per-month maintenance appointments.  At this point I am continuing the maintenance appointments and will do so as regular preventative care.

I am happy with the results (no more daily migraines) although my appointments did not really go as I would had hoped/wanted.  I found Dr. Staley to be presumptuous at times and I did not have the chance to correct/explain things because I didn't have an opportunity to get a word in edgewise.  One appointment moment that sticks out is his assumption about pilates.  He suggested an exercise that is nearly exactly like one that we do during class because he incorrectly assumes that pilates does not engage the core muscles at all or very little which is the complete opposite of what goes on in class.  There is a huge emphasis on working from the core and proper alignment for all exercises.  I didn't have a moment to correct his assumption because he was already on another topic moments later.

Despite this, I am happy with the results.  I learned how to treat my migraines without medication and have had the opportunity to practice the techniques on the few pains I have had since starting treatment.  I know that I am vunerable to migraines if I don't stretch my neck on a regular basis because my migraines initiate from the back of my head which easily tightens from stress and exercise, so hopefully I can help prevent migraine pain from now on by simple stretching.

No Longer MIA, For the Moment

Well, I don't know where to start.  I last posted in July so it has been five months.  I suppose there will be a lot of summarizing, hand waving, and bad rationalization.

Work was supposed to be difficult November through January with the launch of my satellite, but that period of my life has been moved to February through April.  After the Frederick Half I was afraid to plan for any races due to the upcoming schedule, so I didn't.  When the launch was delayed mid-year, I had a small window to find a race and train, but I didn't make the effort so I have continued to skate down the once-a-week workout path.  More like slide, face first, down a rocky path to not-so-great health.  *Insert melodramatic interlude here*

One thing I learned about myself is that I hate the heat.  The hotter the summer, the more miserable I am.  I hate to train in the heat.  Hate hate hate.  And that's not a word I use often.  If I looked good in a bra top and booty shorts, would I not hate the heat so much?  I'll let you know if that ever happens.  I used to hate running; I think I need to work on this heat thing...  Let the therapy begin!

And, I could use some pictures here.  There are a lot of words; no pictures.  I am pretty good about off-loading the race pictures and such from the camera; I just need to put some of them up here.  So, call that a new years resolution.  I should refine it into a more tangible goal with actual numbers so I can track my progress; resolutions without real numbers aren't real resolutions, just pip-dreams.

Now that I have broken the ice, I will close this post and compose a few more before I call it a night.