|The Sixlings, March 2011|
Last week Norma Jean had gone to get her cholesterol checked and was disappointed with the results. Both of us had read a book positing that higher doses of vitamin C and lysine would help to lower these numbers (along with good diet, of course) and we both began a regimen that we hoped was the answer to the genetic predisposition our parents gave us. Since both my mother and father didn't have statins available to them, they both had high cholesterol when they died (very high, in the 400-500 range) and heart disease is rampant in our family. Every single one of the six of us are on statins for high cholesterol.
Back in January when I went to the doctor's office and found that my cholesterol was elevated (total 246), I decided to go on a diet to lose the ten pounds I had gained since the previous checkup. I was very successful, losing fifteen pounds, to be exact, and feeling better than I have in years. I get more exercise than many seniors, I'd say, and on Thursday I went to see my doctor, confident that my numbers would have improved. Friday I had my blood drawn while fasting.
Thanks to the miracle of the PeaceHealth online connection, that very afternoon I got an email saying that my test results were available, and I pulled up the page with confidence — and was crushed when I saw the numbers. Total cholesterol is UP to 259, with my good cholesterol (HDLs) have dropped from 77 to 65. That's still good, of course, but I've been exercising more this past summer than I have in years, having added swimming and getting in extra hikes with the Senior Trailblazers. And to top it off, my triglycerides have doubled from 79 to 141! I don't eat ANY simple carbohydrates and that just floored me. Granted, I had never had such low triglycerides before, as they usually run right around 100.
So, color me disappointed too. I spent Friday night waking up, tossing and turning and wondering what I have been doing wrong. The doctor's notation was also on the test results, and I saw that he will be suggesting to me that I double my dose of simvastatin (Zocor) from 20 to 40. He wrote that I should just take two tablets instead of one every evening until they are gone, and then he'll give me a prescription. He hasn't called me yet, then again that was just two days ago, but I immediately began to take two and will have my blood drawn again in three months to see how I'm tolerating the higher dose.
Genetics is probably the reason for all these numbers being elevated, but I remembered that years ago I decided to try the Dean Ornish diet for heart disease. He wrote a book in 1992 called Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease and I jumped on the bandwagon, following everything to the letter. The short version of the diet is to limit simple carbohydrates completely, concentrating on complex carbs, with small amounts of protein and fat. I lost weight then, too, but when I had my blood drawn, my numbers were sky high, and I was twenty years younger, too. My doctor at the time told me that some people have a strong genetic predisposition to what she called "hyperlipidemia" and that statins would lower my numbers, and she was right. So I'm now doubling my statin drugs and hoping for the best.
The actual diet that helped me the most is the South Beach diet, which is what I follow pretty closely. The way I lost the weight I had gained last year is to start to count my calorie intake, as I had gotten more and more cavalier about portion size and the weight just crept up. I knew I had stashed my favorite pants had in the back of my closet since they no longer fit, but I figured it was simple aging. I'm proudly wearing them again, though, and I'd like to keep the weight from coming back.
My genetics is probably the reason I've got these numbers, but I will never stop trying to find a natural way to lower them. I feel stronger and better with the vitamin C and lysine, so I'll keep on doing that, but striving to find the diet that will keep these numbers all within normal parameters without drugs... maybe it's possible. So far, the statins are my only hope to avoid heart disease.