Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The battle gets more serious

I was sick last Monday. Really sick. The only things that passed my lips in over 24 hours: 1 bottle of grape gatorade and 4 pieces of toast. That kind of sick.

Dave was sick at the same time. Nora and Ryann had the day off of school... they got up around 8:30, turned on cartoons and spent the next 12 hours watching tv. Dave and I laid in bed and dozed in and out for the entire day. Ugh. It was terrible.

(side note: it was actually kind of nice to be sick together. While we didn't interact hardly at all during the day, it was less lonely to be laying in bed next to someone else who was feeling the same way. Weird? Dave thought it was weird when I told him this.)

At some point in the early afternoon the phone rang - it was the doctor's office with our cholesterol results. They weren't good. Me = 235 (HDL 65, LDL 165, Tri 100). Dave = 225.

Really? We both run 3 - 4 days per week. We make healthy food choices 90% of the time. We don't eat a ton of meat or fried foods. Our biggest indulgence is weekly pizza on Saturday nights.

High cholesterol is in my genes from every nook and cranny in my family. When I was 22 and got my first job, they happened to be having free physicals for the employees on my first day of work. My fasting cholesterol - at 22 years old - was 288. My doctor at that time told me my ratio of total cholesterol to HDL was good so he wasn't worried. Since then I have really changed my eating and have exercised very regularly when I wasn't pregnant. Last December my cholesterol was down to 216. Periodically it has been 204, 210 and then 216, but never got below 200. This has been a battle for my entire adult life.

So what to do? The doc sent Dave the low-fat diet hand out that he gives me everytime I'm there, but wants me to make an appointment. I am 33 - I don't want to go on meds for the rest of my life, which could possibly be 40-50 years of prescription medication.

So I researched diets and books last week. Seems that the low-fat low-cholesterol diet handout that the doc gives us is pretty out of date. Appears that a Mediterranean diet would be good in addition to adding a multitude of supplements. I bought the book, "The New 8-Week Cholesterol Cure" (new meaning updated from a previous version) and an American Heart Association cookbook.

We are on a mission - both of us this time. Fortunately Dave's cholesterol was high, too, because now he is taking this seriously and I'm not on my own. We're going to try to lower our cholesterol naturally instead of with prescription meds.

I haven't finished the book, but this is what I've figured out so far:

* need to eat lots and lots and lots of fruits and vegetables. Very minimum 5 servings each day, but closer to 9 servings - basically the more the better. This requires a committment to going to the grocery store more often, increasing our grocery budget, and spending time preparing them after we get home.

* need to eat fish at least once per week, ideally twice per week.

* it is okay to eat nuts, but not big handfuls. Nuts are good. Peanut butter is good. But it needs to be small quantities.

* drinking alcohol in moderation is good for you. In fact, research has shown that people who consume alcohol in moderation (women = 1 drink/day, men = 2 drinks/day) have less heart disease and less risk than people who abstain from alcohol entirely. Beer or wine - either one is good and helps, neither do so more than the other in terms of CHD. Red wine has additional antioxidants, but beer is also good (which is good because I just learned to love beer).

* We need to add some vitamin supplements - well, I need to start taking mine. Dave does a good job of it already. Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Selenium are musts because of their antioxidants. When buying Vitamin E I need to look for d-alpha something or other - NOT dl-alpha something or other. The first one is most similar to Vitamin E that occurs naturally in plants and is the best for your heart.

* Fiber, fiber, fiber. Hello, get your fiber. Actually, I do not have a problem with this since my daily menu consists mostly of fiber. Oat bran is the best, but I haven't quite figured out what that is other than oatmeal. Drink a metamucil type thing before meals - must contain or be made with psyllium (good news: Target brand sugar free fiber therapy is 100% psyllium and is much cheaper than brand name... and we have it in the house already).

That is as far as I've gotten. There is some promising info on how to block cholesterol from being absorbed, which means we can still eat pizza and eggs (mmmmmm. eggs) and Dave can eat beef. And Niacin - I will be taking Niacin as well, but I haven't read that chapter and I'm not sure if I need to consult my doc about that one first.

I find this all very interesting. It is going to require us to increase our very, very lean grocery budget. Ramen noodles no more. And supplements are not cheap - especially when two people are taking them... but then again, neither are prescription meds. So we're committing to this and we'll see how we fare in 3 months. Let the battle begin.


April 10:19 AM  

I am so glad that you have a solid plan for this. I too would despise having to take a prescription for the rest of my life!

Amy 10:23 AM  

Since Rob was diagnosed with gluten intolerance we had to redo our whole menu. I know it's a little different than what you guys are dealing with it. Basically we are eating healthier and very much learning as we go.

We do have fish once or twice a week. We buy tilapia in a bag, fresh shrimp, or grill salmon from the deli (a little expensive...if it's a good month). We cannot eat anything breaded since it is has gluten in it. I also eat tuna for lunch at least once a week...usually more than that.

We buy much more fresh fruits and veggies than ever before. It is a pain because we go through them so fast. I hate always running to the store. We're trying to grow more in our garden, but nothing grew last summer. :( Hope we have better luck this year.

Never ate much nuts. My nutrition guru friends swear by flax seeds etc. but can't seem to go that route yet. We like beer or wine on the weekends, but that's out now being pregnant. :( At least for me.

Are green leafy vegetables a good source of fiber? I should probably eat more because my iron always goes too low when I am pregnant. I just can't bring myself to enjoy a big spinach salad. :)

Let me know how it goes for you guys. I think it's better to try and solve it with diet than prescriptions. With Rob's ordeal we didn't really have a choice. There is one prescription he could have taken, but I heard the side effects are terrible. It can do damage on your intestines (?) or something. Whatever the case, it was not worth it.

Kristy 4:26 PM  

I's a catch 22 on where to spend your money,and food would be my first choice too. With meds,you might end up having to add another perscription if the one isn't working= more money.. yea start with the foods :) I pray pray pray it work for you and you see results soon. When will you get retested btw?

Mommy Brain 8:20 AM  

Doug and I have started cutting white sugar and bread carbs out of our diet and adding more fruits, veggies and nuts. It started out totally vain cause I was sick of my fat butt but has turned into a health decision because I no longer have problems with my bowels now and life is so much better. Anyway, you didn't need to know that. I have found that purchasing my fruits and some veggies at Sams Club has made a huge difference in cost and quality. I have to be real careful not to buy other stuff, but the prices they have on the quantity you receive...not even Aldi can compare. Also, I've been checking out a farm co-op that one of Doug's patients was telling him about. It's organic, fresh, local grown food. You buy a share of the farm and then pick up your produce throughout the summer-fall. Here is a link but you can also google "organic farm co-op" to find more choices. Just a thought? Good luck with you more thought, my mom who is the healthiest nut of anyone I know has high good and low bad....her doc told her that it's the ratio that is the most important. Her ratio is off the charts her good is WAY high and low is way low. Overall she has High Cholesterol but her doc says it's not exactly how it appears... could this be happening with you too?

Brenda B 1:28 AM  

I wish you the best of luck with controlling this with food and suppliments! I'll be very interested in you results as I also have high cholesterol. I don't remember my total number, low 200 something. But my tris are Way WAY high - 866 was the most recent high. I supposed to take high doses of fish oil (prescription) but I'm bad at remembering it.

I agree that the produce at costco/Sams is better quality and a great buy. Other than that find a farmers market in your area.

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