Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eating Healthier for Me and the Planet

As regular readers of this blog may be aware, I have high cholesterol issues. My father passed away at a relatively young age from a heart attack so there is a clear genetic component here. In fact, when I was in college and a vegetarian, I had my cholesterol tested and it was around 270. I still remember my doctor's disbelief to this day. "This is a vegetarian's cholesterol level?!!"

She quickly decided that, clearly, I needed to be on medication. Stat. And so, at the tender age of twenty, I was put on cholesterol drugs.

However, I was unsure myself whether or not this was really the right course of action. Starting cholesterol medication at twenty meant I could be taking these drugs for sixty plus years. Many of these drugs simply haven't been around that long. In addition, I knew I couldn't be on the drugs when I was pregnant or breast feeding. So, to me, it seemed like I should at least try to see if I could lower my cholesterol without drugs. (I should note at this time that I am talking about the right course of action for MYSELF. I would personally rather not take the drugs, but I'm not saying that others should not or that it may not be the right choice for someone else.)

And I found that by changing my diet, I was, in fact, able to lower my cholesterol levels. By eating healthier, I got my cholesterol down to a manageable level.

No drugs needed.

But while I was in graduate school, I really let go of many of my good eating habits. And though I've gotten better about my eating while un(der)employed, and though I've started running more regularly, I'm really nervous that my cholesterol has spiked and that my doctor is going to recommend the drugs again.

In fact, I have a physical scheduled in a couple weeks, and whenever I think about it, I get a little freaked out. What if, what if, what if, what if?

The thing is, I know better. I *really* know better. I know that if I followed our friend Michael Pollan's food rules I could not only reduce my environmental impact, but I could also keep my cholesterol under control.

I'm hoping desperately that my cholesterol levels are not out of control. But if they are on the high side, I hope I use that knowledge as a wake-up call. Hell, even if they are on the lower side, I could still use a wake-up call. 

Because I know that it is not inevitable that I suffer from heart disease. And by eating healthier, I can both help the planet and myself.


Farmer's Daughter said...

Have you considered going on the drugs for the short term while you phase into a healthier diet? That might be a happy medium.

I have high blood pressure in my family (along with type II diabetes) and as I get older I realize I am at least partially in control of it, genetics doesn't have to rule here. Fortunately, my blood pressure is healthy now. It's scary to get old! (Today's my 29th bday, so perhaps that's why it seems so scary...)

Good for you for taking steps in the right direction for your own health!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Sounds like you have familial hypercholesterolemia. I had a friend in college who had the same deal except hers was over 300 I think.

Have you heard of taking cinnamon to lower your cholesterol? Not sure how definitive those studies were, but if there's any merit to them, it's a tasty way to keep it in control once it's down.

Abbie - You old fart. You're falling apart in your old age :)

Marino said...

good on ya for taking the initiative while you're younger and healthy. I'm in a similar boat with the gene pool except with my family (both sides) Type II Diabetes is the culprit. Fortunately another thing that can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, diet and lifestyle.

@ CrunchyChicken: I have also heard that cinnamon can be good for lowering blood sugar as well.

Jenn said...

Jeebuz! 270? Mine was like 130 combined!!

Do you eat any animal products at all - like eggs, cheese and stuff?

Scary stuff - let's definitely cook together and catch up!