Gotta’ Run: Addressing LDL cholesterol
Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2022
As part of my annual physical, I didn’t expect any unusual results. Fortunately, nearly all my markers turn out well. The only long time issue has been a higher than normal LDL cholesterol level, even though my total cholesterol has always been good. LDL is called the bad cholesterol. My recent test showed a level of 115 mg., higher than the normal level of anything below 99.
Over at least the previous 35 years, I have been very fortunate to have regularly used only two Novant family medicine doctors. Mostly it’s been sort of boring, except for the lively change of pace when I got blood clots during or immediately following the bike rides of 2013 and 2021. All has gone well with getting rid of them and I don’t have the blood markers to continue medication full-time.
But since I have paid attention to blood tests, I have had higher levels of LDL, low density lipoproteins. That higher level has been a heredity thing as it runs in my family. Once I tried niacin, a B vitamin that was then the current rage to lower cholesterol. It had little effect and I hated the hot flashes. After that, we just checked it off to heredity and moved on.
One thing caught my attention last week. There is a 10-year risk factor for heart attack and stroke calculated based on overall cholesterol results and age. My new doctor pointed out that mine is higher than it should be based on the good readings for HDL, triglycerides, VLDL and total cholesterol. My target is now the LDL, no longer dismissing it.
My new doctor, replacing one of those long-term favorites who recently retired, pushed me to address it but she wanted me to start regularly taking a statin drug to address the LDL. I am very hesitant on medications and spent an evening researching the particular drug, specifically the side effects. I didn’t like what I read and suggested to my new doctor that I preferred to address the situation with lifestyle changes. She agreed, and we plan to retest the cholesterol levels in six months.
So what happens in those six months? I will begin to practice what I teach. As a long time running and wellness coach, I talk about certain specific risk factors that matter in your overall health and are directly linked to cholesterol levels. I don’t smoke or drink and do exercise well past the recommended amounts. Some medicines and medical conditions can raise LDL levels and I don’t have these. These things are already in my corner, but two others need some work.
Two remaining cholesterol risk factors will be the targets! The first is amount and quality of sleep. I am absolutely terrible at this and consider it as a lifelong issue. I don’t sleep enough, finally giving up my day too late and impatient to start the next one. Often the hours in the middle are interrupted by thoughts of things to do. Total sleep time nightly probably averages five hours, not nearly enough.
My diet is full of fruits and good carbs, plus decent amounts of vegetables. I don’t drink sugared drinks and usually do well on water intake. Eggs are a good thing again. My problems come with too much processed foods, a big red flag for LDL cholesterol levels. Certain things have become staples, like post run Pop Tarts every morning and packaged crackers plus a few favorites that are named Little Debbie. And those single serve pecan pies in the Food Lion deli.
Finally, cholesterol in total is a good thing. Our body has to have it and 20% of the body’s total cholesterol is needed the brain. But LDL can cause plaque buildup in the arteries leading to arteriosclerosis and other issues. I’m on a mission, have made it public and will report back later on the results.
Up next on the local racing scene is the granddaddy of them all, the 39th Annual New Sarum Brewing Winter Flight 8K/5K and fun run on Jan. 30. Look for it and other events at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org .