The Statin Standard

I am predisposed to high cholesterol. I am still young enough to keep my numbers under control through a combination of good dieting, natural plant sterols, and daily exercise.

Unfortunately, genetic predisposition laughs in the face of preventative care. One day, when I am older, I will be forced to use a statin. My silver lining in that inevitable cloud is that drugs like Lipitor have finally become generic. Patients accustomed to dropping $50 copays will now just be asked for $10.

My first thorough cholesterol screening, four years ago, scared me to death. My numbers were dangerously high. I was overloaded with the 'bad' cholesterol and my good cholesterol barely registered on the scale. I was one of many Americans who assumed that staying at a healthy weight was all one needed to avoid the dangers of arterial plaque.

This is untrue. All you need is a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease.

After that first screening, I began to carefully controll my diet. I began running. I took liquid plant sterol extract with each meal. I avoided almost any and all cholesterol. After five months, I was retested, and the results astounded me.

I had managed to drop my numbers all the way back down to a healthy level, all on my own, without the use of prescription drugs.

Over the next few years, I gradually allowed my food discipline to grow lax. I stopped monitoring my diet. I even stopped walking. Then, about six months ago, I had another lipid panel done.

This time, the results were bad. Really bad. My numbers were actually worse than they had been the first time around. Worse, as in big red waving flag warning me of a heart episode if I didn't watch out.

This scared me back into compliance. I began walking daily. I went back to plant sterols (the liquid extract I once used was yanked by the FDA, so I started taking them in pill form). I took daily whole food form vitamins and omega threes. I didn't cut meat out entirely but I ate it sparingly. I spent a month as a vegan. I began making hearty alliances with lentils, fruits, and vegetables, and all in the service of getting those numbers back down.

A strange thing happened this time. An unintentional side-effect. I lost a not-insignificant amount of weight. My digestive tract normalized. My overall brain function seemed to heighten. I chalk much of this up to my insane self discipline, but if anyone else is struggling with this and has questions about what I did - specifically - to lose the weight and (presumably) bring my numbers down, I am always happy to offer tips and advice.

I've given myself a good six months to improve the numbers. Now that I'm on month six, the ultimate test - another lipid panel - is upon me. I'm scared to death to go back in. My fear is that the numbers are now too bogged down in encroaching middle age that they have no hope of rising. My doctor raised that possibility with me last time, but I'm not yet ready for a lifetime of statin dependence.

Additionally, I've grown a bit lax since the Holidays began. Desserts are creeping in again. I found time for certain meats. There never seems to be any time for walking. I think my design this month will be to heighten my efforts from the last few months, then get the panel done just before the end of the year: a kind of reverse New Year Resolution. The trick will be to stick to a basic standard of behavior, one incorporating diet and exercise in equal measure. Whether this standard can stave off statin dependence is another matter, but I have faith that it can.


Popular Posts