Monday, March 4, 2013

Cholesterol Control

I went in a couple of weeks ago for my annual physical.  I did this primarily to have my PSA level checked, making sure that the prostate cancer is still gone.  That value was undetectable this year, which is good.  What was not so good is that my cholesterol levels had spiked up into an unacceptable range.  My total cholesterol jumped from 205 to 240 and the LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) jumped from 127 to 162.

So late last week my doctor called to have a chat with me about taking care of this problem.  The options given to me were to either change my diet, or go onto some type of medication.  Neither one of those options had a lot of appeal to me, but I opted for trying the diet change to see how that would work first.  And if I am unsuccessful there, then I guess I start on pills.

The doctor recommended a book to help with the diet decisions; "Eat to Live", by Joel Fuhrman.  So I bought the book that day from Amazon and it showed up in the mail the next day.  It is a 400+ page paperback and I managed to get through the intro and most of the first 2 chapters before I gave up and, against the author's advice, went to the back of the book.  It seems to me like the first 2 chapters could easily be covered in a couple of pages: follow my plan and lose lots of weight; diets are bad; processed foods are bad; meat is bad; eating according to my plan will fix the vast majority of your health issues and help you live longer.

So when I couldn't handle the repetition any longer I jumped to the back to see what his plan consisted of.  It starts with a 6 week plan: lots of raw veggies and salads, the more the better, 1 pound a day is the target; lots of cooked or steamed veggies, the more the better, a pound a day is good; 1 cup of beans a day; at least 4 pieces of fruit a day; limited dried fruit, nuts, grains or starches; no dairy, meat, oils, fruit juice or snacks.  After the first 6 weeks you can start to eat very limited amounts of dairy and meat, although he recommends against it.

I know full well that I do not eat enough fruits and veggies.  But I also know that there is no way in the world that I would be able to force myself to eat 2 pounds of veggies, a cup of beans and 4 pieces of fruit a day.  Especially if there is any other food available.  I just cannot see myself sticking to something like that longer than a day or two; and that is probably not long enough to do any good.

So instead, I am researching heart healthy, cholesterol lifestyles online and being more conscious of what I eat:  keep a close eye on saturated and trans fat levels and cholesterol in the food I eat; give up my nightly bowl of ice cream; work hard at getting more fruit and veggies in my diet; lose the 10 pounds wrapped around my tummy; and try to get back running at least on a limited basis.

The doctor wants me back in 3 months to recheck the cholesterol levels, so I guess I'll find out how successful I have been by then.  I would expect that if my cholesterol is not under control by then, my cardiologist will also start pushing a medication response.  So for now, good-bye to ice cream, and hello to salads and label reading.

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