Lately, I find myself struggling with a few food and health questions. At the end of March I had a physical and decided to send my bloodwork to Berkeley Labs in CA to have a more thorough analysis of both my cholesterol and overall risk of heart disease. The results came back pretty much as I suspected: my LDL was high, but my HDL levels were also high, leading to a good overall ratio. Everything else was fairly uneventful – good triglycerides level, particle sizes were the way they needed to be, etc. However, my doctor would like to put me on medicine to bring down my LDL level, and I am admittedly confused and uncertain as to what I should do. One, I am fairly young (42) and am left wondering why my doctor did not suggest other non-medicinal methods to try first…I am assuming my genetic factor is the main reason for this. Two, this is my primary care doctor, not a cardiologist. I would like to consult a heart specialist before making a decision to embark on such a long-term commitment with medicine (and I have already been informed this would be long-term). I also worry what reaction my body will have to the medicine. I typically do not tolerate drugs all that well. Even something as simple as Motrin caused havoc in my intestines a couple of years back – ultimately resulting in 2 weeks of severe stomach pain, an endoscopy and an ultrasound – all to find nothing wrong (no ulcer, no gallbladder problems, no odd intestinal cancers) – and ultimately blamed on the Motrin. So I feel fairly justified in my concern as to what side-effects these pills would inflict in my body.
This raises another issue for me…namely, what price am I willing to pay for a longer life? Do I want to take a pill which may prolong my life in the long run, yet may necessitate changing my eating habits and perhaps lower the quality of my life? I already feel I do a great job of eating and living my life with moderation. I don’t deny myself good foods, but I do make sure I don’t overindulge. I’d rather have a small scoop of real, fat laden ice-cream than a bowlful of a reduced calorie, ice-cream-like substitute. I like cream in my coffee – my at most one cup of coffee a day – that I drink. I barely use refined sugars (again, in that same cup of coffee as the cream). We generally eat whole grains and fresh produce. Our meats are from sustainable, 100% grass-fed farms. I don’t use trans-fats or HFCS when I cook. I know that those times we go out it is generally unavoidable, but we don’t even eat out all that much anymore. I don’t want to give up the way I eat because I truly believe it is healthy.
What I have decided for now is to not take the meds. Instead, I will continue my research and also plan to meet with a true heart specialist to assess my risk factors and options, both medicinal and otherwise. In the meantime I have finally gotten back into exercise. I have not regularly exercised for the past 2 years. This is, I am sure, a large part of why my LDL levels shot up. So I have been power walking several times a week, taking Pilates classes, and trying out other classes such as yoga, Nia, Zumba, and even belly-dancing. I found a fabulous studio not far from where we live that offers a wonderful variety to keep up my level of interest. My life has generally been balanced with the exception of exercise, and I am hopeful this new phase of my life will add that missing level of balance, thus bringing my health concerns into balance as well.