When I was 21 I was applying for a certain type of insurance...which required some lab tests - one of those including a lipid panel...ALSO known as testing your cholesterol. Heart disease and high cholesterol run in my family. My grandpa passed away due to heart disease complications, my dad has had open heart surgery, my sister and niece have both had procedures to correct a heart arrhythmia and I myself was born with a heart defect called a Ventricular Septal Defect. Both of my parents have been on cholesterol medication as long as I can recall. I shouldn't have been surprised that when I got my blood test results that I had high cholesterol too.
But I was TWENTY ONE. I was training for a marathon, my diet consisted of plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and everything else that qualifies as a "heart healthy diet" as promoted by the American Heart Association. I wasn't by any means overweight either. It just goes to show that family history has a LOT to do with it!
So what did my primary care doctor say when she saw the results? "We will keep our eye on it and recheck yearly. Please ensure you are eating a heart healthy diet and exercise also." Hmm....well I THINK marathon training counts as exercise...and like I said my eating was in check too...
I Didn't Start Eating Cheerios
As a nurse I know the dangers of having high cholesterol. Having excess cholesterol build up can lead to waxy deposits in your arteries - narrowing the vessels - and can eventually lead to a hardening of the vessels. The narrowing of the vessels makes it harder for blood to flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. Also - a piece of the plaque could dislodge and cause a clot in your brain (a stroke) or to your heart (heart attack) Your body NEEDS cholesterol to some extent and it is produced by your body on it's own. Cholesterol gets around within your body with certain types of proteins: Low Density Lipoproteins (known as LDLs) and High Density Lipoproteins (known as HDLs) The Cleveland Clinic website has a good way to remember which one is good and which one is bad:
Think of HDLs as the "garbage trucks" that haul away excess cholesterol to the liver. The LDLs are the "delivery trucks" that pick up the cholesterol from the liver and bring it to the cells.
So why do we need it? Cholesterol helps your body produce hormones, vitamin D and helps you digest food too! (so really..it's not completely evil!)
You might find this infographic helpful - resource found HERE
So what is recommended for lowering cholesterol?
1. Adding heart healthy foods to your diet:
ex: healthy omega-3 fats, whole grains, avoid trans-fats, increasing fiber intake, lean meats
2. quit smoking
3. increase physical activity
4. be at a "healthy" weight
5. alcohol in moderation
hmmm...well I already do all these things and was doing them at age 21 also...so what has changed?
First lets look at my results! (C'mon Marti, get to the juicy stuff!)
So as you can see
my total cholesterol is 211 - borderline high -
HDL (the good cholesterol) is 103 - this is high but that is OK - this means it is COMPENSATING and picking up the extra junk (remember the garbage trucks)
Triglycerides are within normal range
LDL (the BAD cholesterol is also at a good level!
so you might be thinking..ok what is the big deal? Let's compare to results in the past!
Here are the numbers over the past four years of being checked! I started at 242...This year I'm at 211! And holy cow..look at the improvement in the LDLs too! (142 vs 97??) If I total everything up from the panel I have made a dramatic change of 99 point difference in my overall panel - and MORE if you count the improvement in the HDLs too!
So what is different THEN vs. NOW?
1. I'm not training for a marathon - so maybe some decreased stress on my body? Yes I work out most days and I also have an active job as a nurse. I strive for a balance of workout types: strength training and weight lifting, running, MMA style workouts, HIIT style training and I utilize working out at home AND at the gym. Oh and I'm taking days off too! (usually about two days a week)
2. I use Shakeology every day. Most of the time at work just in a shaker cup with water and ice! Otherwise I blend up a delish smoothie for dessert OR make an awesome pancake in 10 minutes. Shakeology is not just a protein shake. Yes it has protein. BUT it's focus is on SUPERFOODS (70 of them in fact) Phytonutrients like MORINGA, kale, spiniach, spirulina that prolong life and preserve the good cells. Prebiotics and probiotics for digestion and healing your gut. ANTIOXIDANTS like Goji berry, green tea, camu-camu, blueberries, aceola that FIGHT DISEASE AND INFLAMMATION. Adaptogens (aka STRESS FIGHTERS) as in ashwaganda, maca, reishi mushrooms, chaga mushrooms. Digestive enzymes to help us break down our nutrition properly so that it actually gets utilized. It also has VITAMINS, MINERALS and many of those that are difficult to get in with just eating clean foods. (Sadly so much of what we think we are eating...we actually aren't)
3. I still eat a "heart healthy diet" - oh - and treats too of course!
4. I follow up yearly with my primary physician and also keep an eye on my vital signs - such as my blood pressure (which is always LOW)
5. I have maintained my weight (of course it does fluctuate..but that is just a fact of life I'm learning!)
So the advice I give you is this.
Focus on the risk factors you CAN control! Like your nutrition, exercise, blood pressure, stress levels and worry less about the things you can't - like your race and family history. Make small changes EVERY day because they will add up to big ones in the long run!
And FIND OUT YOUR RISK. Ask your family about their levels, find out about any relatives with heart disease and get yourself checked out! Get your lipid panel drawn, get your blood pressure checked, get your blood glucose level checked too. Find out where you are at so that you can IMPROVE.
Invest in yourself. Paying $4 a day for Shakeology is much better than already having to pay for CHOLESTEROL MEDICATIONS FOR LIFE.
1. Does heart disease and high cholesterol run in your family?
2. Do you know your numbers?
3. What changes are you making to improve?
4. To join me in the fight against cholesterol and find out more about Shakeology - email me HERE subject title FIGHTER
Cookie and Treats Baker. R.N. Nutrition Nerd. Runner. <3 Coffee. Fitness. Foodie. In pursuit of finding my own kind of balance...
Peppermint Cocoa Shake for the Holidays!
Weekly Recap, Links from Around the Web and Almost 30
Thoughts of the Week
Thinking out Loud -
Real Talk Saturday
Cauliflower Rice Stirfry
Random Thoughts this Week
What I'm Loving Lately