I’m pleased and also pissed with my cholesterol (lipid profile) results that came in just yesterday.
I have a family history of cardiac disease. My father, Chester, died at age 72 from heart failure after several cardiac attacks severely compromised the last six years of his life. His father died when my father was a baby. My maternal grandfather died at age 57 when I was three. On the positive side, my mother, Isabel, is 88 years old, on no meds, is very independent, and had bought herself two tons of beach stones on her last birthday. She spread them around her gardens herself, with a shovel and wheelbarrow.
To date, I have chosen to be closely monitored for signs of the disease, with thirty year list of figures in columns than I keep in a manila file.
Last fall I became concerned when daily morning readings of my pulse rate were recording results between the high 40’s to low 50’s. I was asymptomatic, not having any fainting experiences. I had also recorded the highest LDL cholesterol level on a previous blood test, one that was taken right after I had returned from a 2500 mile 5 month hike over the Rockies on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. I had suspected that the high reading was due to the fact that I was eating a raft of total junk food for months on end: potato chips, french fries cheese, and fats, fats, fats.
My physician was not that concerned. She did not suggest a Statin, nor was she concerned about my low heart rate, which she felt was an aspect of a high level of fitness for my age. Nevertheless she suggested that I get a second opinion from a cardiologist, and made the referral which I followed up on.
The tech in the cardiologist’s office was doing the intake before I saw the doctor. She turned to me after reading my data and asked me, “ Why aren’t you on a statin?” At the time I didn’t want to retort with the fact that I knew that statins have quickly become most successful class of drugs in history, generating more money in the United States every year than all professional sports combined, or that in the less than 20 years that Statins have been around, over 1,000 publications have discussed their toxicity.
By the time I was out of there, the cardiologist told me I had a 15% risk of having CDV (cardiovascular disease). He had even noted a small fold line in my right earlobe as a factor. Although I was unwilling to make a final decision at the time, he handed me a prescription for Lipitor, and encouraged me to go right out and put it on my shelf for later (implying after I had smartened up). He told me my risk should be 7.4% or lower.
I asked the doctor about any non-drug options, and he handed me single sheet that listed a raft of dietary changes and supplements. He claimed that some of his clients had reduced their LDL reading by 40% by following this protocol.
It leaned heavily on reducing dietary sources of cholesterol: red meat, cheese, trans fats, potatoes, sugar, and increasing the consumption of plants, especially soy products, and nuts. I was encouraged to ingest fish oils, a small bar of chocolate, and a red yeast extract.
He also recommended that I eat Quorn three times a week at least. Quorn is mostly made of mushrooms. Quorn is a highly processed product that includes Textured Vegetable Protein as an ingredient. TVP is composed of artificial and natural flavors, MSG, colorings, emulsifiers and thickening agents, including nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. I wondered why actual mushrooms were not listed as a food to consume rather than Quorn.
He also gave me another sheet that had listed several pharmaceutical products, like Smart Balance butter, that I should start eating. There were several pills suggested in this category as well. At the same pharmacy where I bought the Lipitor, I asked the pharmacist what shelves held these “ healthy heart” products. He told me they didn’t carry any, and when he volunteered to order me what I needed, he got on the computer and informed me that several of the items on the cardiologist’s list were no longer available. He then remembered reading that they didn’t pan out, that the principle behind those products didn’t hold up, and that he thought that the FDA had some role to play in it.
My lipid numbers have always gone up and down. However, this new set is the best I’ve ever recorded. My Total cholesterol reading dropped under the magic 200 number for the first time of my life. My HDL Cholesterol is safely planted at 68 mg/dl, as is my Triglycerides reading of 65. All three figures are listed as within the Standard Range on the message I just received from the hospital. The sole outlier is my LDL Cholesterol Direct reading of 123, which is over the 57-99 Standard Range.
Here’s what I am pissed about:
1) If I enter my figures and calculate my chances of being alive in 10 years with the newly updated Cardiac Risk Assistant, then it’s 7.4%. However, if I calculate it tomorrow, on my birthday, it goes up to 8.4%. What changed about me at 12:00 AM when I turned 65, in addition to picking up Medicare?
2) A search on the NYTImes website indicates that my 123 HDL reading fall within the Near Optimal (100 – 129 mg/dL) range on their summary table.
3) My cardiologist’s recommendations now appear to go against the latest info that just came out.
From February 12, 2015-Patrick J. Skerrett, Executive Editor, Harvard Health
“Warnings against eating foods high in cholesterol, like eggs or shrimp, have been a mainstay of dietary recommendations for decades. That could change if the scientific advisory panel for the 2015 iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has its say.
A summary of the committee’s December 2014 meeting says, ‘Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.’ Translation: You don’t need to worry about cholesterol in your food.
Why not? There’s a growing consensus among nutrition scientists that cholesterol in food has little effect on the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream. And that’s the cholesterol that matters.”
4) If was living in my homeland, Poland, or any other European country. I’d be considered healthy.
Here’s what I picked up from a web search for: “What do European doctors say about our guidelines for statins?”
“About 1 in 5 people who take them develop some problem, often just muscle pains and weakness but sometimes diabetes and probably thinking and memory problems. The new recommendations released in 2013 by the American Heart Association would have us encourage the majority of people over the age of 65 to take these drugs, as well as quite a few health younger people.
Since drug companies are major players in funding research on statins, we may never get truly unbiased information about their risks and benefits. Healthy diet, regular exercise and not smoking are far more powerful ways to reduce risk of heart attack and overall death and disability due to all causes, but advertising this makes nobody any money. It is possible that guidelines which increase the use of statins will also make us just a little weaker, achier, stupid and diabetic.”
Medical procedures are now politically influenced.