My life has been vastly improved since I (probably after reading a Tumblr post about it) started seeing the...
I’ve been avoiding writing this post … yet I’ve also been eager to write this post.
Yeah, my mind is a constant oxymoron like that.
Let’s start from the beginning. I’m 28 years old + before December 2012, I’ve never had detailed blood tests. I’d never had my iron, sodium, blood sugar, or cholesterol tested.
I finally found a doctor that I enjoy going to + feel like I am actually being heard - it’s amazing how hard that can be to find + how amazing it feels when you do find it.
My new doctor was just as curious about what secrets my blood held, so she ordered the tests right away. I had blood drawn a week before my husband + I left SoCal to go to Connecticut for Christmas.
2 days before we left for our trip, I got a call from my doctor’s office with my blood test results. Everything looked great … except … I have “elevated cholesterol”. They said they would mail me the results, along with a flyer with tips on how to lower my cholesterol.
I didn’t receive said mailing until after my husband + I got back from our trip - and you can bet I thought of it a lot! On the phone, my doc’s office didn’t say much about how elevated it was or how I should follow-up, so all I knew was that I’d probably have to adjust my diet a bit + be more active, then come in for another blood test down the road (maybe 6 months?).
Here are my results:
The obvious question: what do the numbers mean?!
There are many charts available online that explain cholesterol tests #s (including those from the Mayo Clinic + American Heart Association + WebMD + NIH Medline Plus) … but I’ll explain it all here for you :)
At first, seeing that my total cholesterol was HIGH, my heart rate went up - go figure. Research a bit more + you’ll find that many doctors (including Oprah’s Dr. Oz) have found that you get a more accurate picture of a heart’s health by looking at the specific HDL/LDL #s instead of the total cholesterol #.
My #s are a great example of that perspective: my LDL may be BORDERLINE HIGH, but my HDL is at OPTIMAL levels … there’s that oxymoron-ness again.
So, why am I telling you all of this?!
As a vibrant fan of Mythbusters, I’m here to bust a very common myth about high cholesterol: thin people don’t have to worry about high cholesterol - BUSTED! (FYI: I’m 5’9” + 130 lbs)
Any type of body can have high cholesterol. Overweight people are more likely to have high cholesterol, but thin people should also have their cholesterol checked regularly. Often people who don’t gain weight easily are less aware of how much saturated and trans fat they eat. Nobody can “eat anything they want” and stay heart healthy. Have your cholesterol checked regularly regardless of your weight, physical activity and diet. - American Heart Assocation
That leads to another myth that needs to be busted: all cholesterol is bad - BUSTED!
The CDC website has a simple explanation of the difference between HDL + LDL. To keep it simple, high HDL is good, but high LDL isn’t, because LDL can stick to the walls of your arteries.
Cholesterol is needed for life. It’s the parent molecule for all the major sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It’s needed for the immune system, and it’s needed for the brain. (In fact, one of the most serious side effects of cholesterol-lowering medication is memory loss.) - Dr. Oz
Dr. Oz’s message is mirrored by Dr. Frank Lipman, another important voice in mind/body wellness.
So … now what?! I know my #s + I know that my LDL needs to go down … but how?!
Trying to avoid medication at all costs, lifestyle changes are in order. Harvard Health’s website has a great article with 15 tips on how to lower your cholesterol naturally. Yoga Journal has a nifty article by Dr. Timothy McCall on diet + exercise changes (including yoga, of course), as well as some bite-sized tips from their February 2013 issue. Last but not least, Yoga International published an extremely useful + detailed article in their Winter 2012/2013 issue that I read a month before I had blood drawn.
Here’s the basic changes:
Right after receiving my test results, my husband + I started to make changes.
Note: my husband voluntarily decided that he wanted to change his diet as well. He was just as shocked to find out I had high cholesterol as I was. It really hit home that it can happen to anyone. He doesn’t want it to happen to him + he wants to do everything he can to make it easier to get my cholesterol down. Translation: awesome husband :) <3
I ADORE food - as most people do. Over the years, I’ve collected a number of cookbooks and hundreds of recipes from websites + magazines … but haven’t actually COOKED much from my collection. Out of sheer laziness, my husband + I often stuck to the same dinners each week + used as much pre-made stuff we could.
What’s changed?! I’ve always gone grocery shopping once a week with a meal plan in-hand. Now, that meal plan includes a lot more fresh veggies, much less processed food, + we try new recipes at least 4 times a week, with a few easy favorites saved for busy days. Instead of seeing dinner preparation as an annoying to-do, my husband + I see it as another type of quality time, as well as a vital investment in our health. Bonus: we’ve saved over $200 in just 2 weeks, thanks to eating healthy at home!
In terms of exercise … I’m still working on that. As a yoga teacher, you’d expect me to be practicing yoga every day. Ideally, I would be - and that is starting to happen. Whether I take a 75-minute class or practice for 30-60 minutes at home, every minute on my mat is important, both personally + professionally … and I have to remember that when I get too distracted by everything else!
Last but not least, I haven’t gone running since August 2012. As soon as possible, I’ll finally be investing in a GPS watch + pounding the pavement once again. The cold temperatures aren’t very motivating, but staying healthy is!
This has been a very long post, which was also very cathartic to write. I am glad that I am, once again, putting my truth out there and (hopefully) helping other people in the process. I’ve never hidden my ongoing issues with depression + anxiety, how they impact my life, + how I overcome them. I’m adding cholesterol to that list + taking it head-on!
As my eating + exercise habits continue to change, I’ll continue posting updates on how my life is impacted (including my cholesterol levels), so stay tuned! <3
Most importantly, if you’ve never had your cholesterol tested … GET TESTED! The test is covered completely by nearly all health insurance plans. Don’t have health insurance? Get tested anyway! Your health is worth every penny - and who knows, your test results might lead you to new money-saving healthy habits! :)