Friday, July 15, 2011

The Amazing Disappearing Blood Markers

Cholesterol has always been a problem with me.

Ever since I can remember, I've been above 200 for total cholesterol. Never understood why; I don't eat a lot of red meat or fatty stuff. Being lactose intolerant, I don't do alfredo or Benedict or any cream in quantity. And I've been working out like a madman, which should help, right?

But it didn't. The doctor put me on Crestor to help get it under control.

I hate taking meds. Absolutely hate it. Maybe I'm a control freak. Dunno.

Long story short: cholesterol stayed level, and triglycerides actually went up. But the kicker was when I learned that this little 90-day supply of meds that costs me $20 costs my insurance company over $400.

Obscene. And it wasn't working anyway. So it's time to reboot the diet.

Kristen discovers Mark Bittmann, a food writer who used to have a weight problem and many health issues. He got mad, then made up a diet he calls "Vegan before 6." Breakfast and lunch were no meat, lots of fruit/veg, no saturated fat or processed food. For dinner, he'd have 'normal' food, just a little less of it. Goodbye, 30 lbs. Goodbye, high cholesterol and joint problems.

For the last five months, I've been the joke of the lunch table, with my biggest decision being whether to have balsamic or Green Lakes vinaigrette on my salad. No pretzels, no flour (ok, maybe a little). And eating a third less.

10 lbs lost and I'm back at the doctor.

                                                              Feb 2011            July 2011        Trend
Total Cholesterol                                      240                    241              Constant.
HDL (good chol, should be high)                49                     105              Excellent
LDL (bad chol, should be low)                   158                    125              Excellent
Triglycerides (blood fats, should be low)     167                     55               Excellent
Total Chol/HDL ratio (should be low)           4.9                    2.3              Excellent

The doctor mentioned that current thinking is less toward total cholesterol and more toward having a higher HDL and lower ratio. If I understand her explanation correctly: chol is produced/delivered by the liver as a response to inflammation of the blood vessel walls. That inflammation is caused by sugar, which is made from starch. More sugar/starch means more inflammation means more cholesterol means narrowed arteries and a whole other set of problems...

So, eliminate starch. No white pasta, cookies, or my beloved pretzels. Plenty of lean meat, avocados, nuts, and other stuff a deer would love. Not that hard once you acclimatize.

Interestingly, I haven't had a moderately serious training injury this year. Some minor kinks, but nothing that put me out of commission. And no colds.

The other big change is the shorter recovery time. Last  year, it took me about 6 weeks after my half-iron race before I felt like going hard again. This time, two weeks after my 78-min improvement over that distance, I ran the Hood to Coast relay and pretty much equaled my best 10k time in 30 years. Again, better diet means harder workouts and less recovery needed.

One other thing I changed; eating more eggs, not fewer. Nice trade-off.

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