It’s More Complicated Than a Number on Your Chart

Me and Jessica after the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans on Sunday. Man, I wanted to run. :(
Me and Jessica after the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans on Sunday. Man, I wanted to run. 😦

I had my annual physical last week. As usual, they took blood and ran my numbers. I heard back yesterday, and they told me that I needed to make an appointment to come in to the see the doctor to discuss my test results. Of course, my first thought was, “OMG – I have a dreaded disease, and I’m going to die! They are going to tell me how much time I’ve got to finish my bucket list.” My second thought was that I didn’t want to take leave to go back over there if I wasn’t going to die or at least suffer through a protracted life-threatening illness. I asked if it was something serious. “No,” she said. “Your cholesterol is high, and you have a Vitamin D deficiency.” I told her that I knew what to do about those things, and I wasn’t interested in getting on any medications. I opted out of the visit.

As soon as I hung up, I panicked because I wondered if maybe it could be something bad, and, of course, I went straight to the American Heart Association website to check out current information on cholesterol issues. Last year my cholesterol was high, but it was high because my HDL – the good stuff – was off the charts. My LDL – the bad stuff – was really low. But, the combined number was high because of my HDL. I was totally confused because they could never tell me what I was supposed to do about lowering my HDL. I left that adventure thinking that the way they do those numbers is really confusing, and I had no way of knowing what I should do. The AHA recommendation now is that you get your cholesterol checked once every 5 years. Maybe that’s to avoid some of this confusion. I’ve had years when it’s up, and I’ve had years when my doctor told me to eat more eggs – that was when they thought eggs were the bad guy. They keep changing their minds about that, too.

I also read about Vitamin D deficiency, and, ironically, that can make your cholesterol go up. Maybe the two are related. Maybe not. This is the issue I have with Western Medicine. All of these protocols are like lines in the sand. If your number says this, do this. There is no discussion about what might be causing it or how it all might be inter-related. Jessica reminded me, too, that I moved last year. Perhaps the stress of the move impacted my cholesterol numbers, too. There are so many things that can impact our health that it makes it hard to know what to do. I just got off a medication that I’d been on for over 15 years. I was taking a low dose, and I was told that it didn’t have any side effects. Well, I’ve been off it now for over three months, and I feel amazing. My hypoglycemia that was so dangerously bad – it’s GONE….. completely gone.  I no longer crave sugar like it’s going out of style. I drank coffee and took really long naps when I could for many years. That fatigue is gone. If I lay down to nap, I can’t even sleep. I’m not tired. I can’t believe that low dose of medication caused all of that HELL for me. I feel like I’ve been released from a grizzly bear that’s been jerking me around for many years. So now ….. after all that … I sort of mistrust medications and doctors. The side effects for that one were worse than the benefits.

I asked Momma about heart disease in women in our family. There have been several cases, but most happened when they were elderly. None of the women in my family have been diagnosed with heart disease at my age. So, I’m going to do what I need to do to cut out saturated fat and get back to eating cleaner. I’ll continue all of the rest of my healthy habits. I am going to increase my efforts to reduce stress. In the last few weeks, I’ve already cut back on my commitments so I can have more down time. I started playing some soothing music at work yesterday. I also got a minimal Vitamin D supplement. I called my old acupuncturist in Memphis after my phone call yesterday, and she had a much calmer reaction to my numbers. She wants to see the test results to see if it’s anything to worry about, but she thinks I’m just deficient in Vitamin D because of the cold winter. Who knows, maybe that has raised my cholesterol. Only time will tell.

The health information we get is so confusing. I usually lean toward sites like the AHA because they seem to have a rational approach toward health. The new guidelines are not so strict on the numbers, and they urge you to take into account family history and your lifestyle to determine how much risk you have. I exercise more than your average gal, I eat pretty healthy overall, and I take care of my emotional health. All of my grandparents lived into their late 80s and 90s even with some pretty bad habits and addictions. I’m going to believe that will be the case with me. If my cholesterol is still up next year – or maybe I’ll even check it at 6 months – I might go in to see my doctor. I’ll take that Vitamin D supplement until I can get out in the sun again in the spring on a regular basis. If something is really wrong with me, I’ll start to see some symptoms. Until then, I’m going to let it go. I just wish it wasn’t all so confusing. I don’t imagine that my body has some internal mechanism that flips over to unhealthy as soon as my cholesterol reaches a certain number. Besides, I have that dang hip bursitis to worry about. That’s what’s affecting my life now. And, who knows, maybe my inability to run has impacted these numbers, too. If I was running, I’d probably get more sun, more Vitamin D and could even lower my cholesterol. It’s kind of like dominoes… one thing affects another.



4 Comments on “It’s More Complicated Than a Number on Your Chart

  1. Numbers are more useful when you compare them over time to see if there are any trends. You were smart to opt out of paying for a dr. And many women (including me!) are deficient in Vitamin D; I take a supplement to protect my bones. You’re taking good care of yourself.

    • Good to know. I didn’t think about your expertise in this area. You’ll be on my list to call in the future. Thanks for re-affirming my decision.

  2. Way to check your own resources, trust your own judgement, and make wise Sharon-based decisions, not Dr.-based decisions. I love my primary care physician, but one of the main reasons why is he knows me, knows my whole family, listens to me carefully (to the chagrin of his schedule managers!) and is not afraid to admit when he needs to reach out to his own resources on a given topic. Final call is still ours, though, isn’t it? Glad you got rid of the grizzly bear, too – that must have been a HUGE relief!

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