May 13, 2008

22 years old and already heart attack bound

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my doctor was concerned about my cholesterol and that I was getting tested for it. Well, results are in, and although my total cholesterol level isn’t too bad, my LDL level (the bad cholesterol) is almost double the normal. EEK! I went in for a follow-up on Friday, and she gave me a “no-list” of foods that I am now only allowed to have once or twice a month, max:

Cheese of any kind
Egg yolks
Red meats

On the bright side, having a medical reason to need to watch my diet is making it a bit easier to stick to. My goal is to always refuse any foods on the no-list, because I have a feeling a few will sneak in there anyway (like yesterday when I was out to a team lunch and ordered a flatbread pizza that was light on the cilantro oil, with no sausage on it, and with no cheese, and they got all my instructions right except the no cheese). In that setting, I couldn’t really not eat, and I have a feeling there may be more situations like that where I don’t have much of a choice, so better to tell myself I can never have anything on that list. Kind of sucks, but at least it’s easy to stick to.

One thing that I don’t like about this list (besides the fact that I like red meat and cheese and don’t want to cut them out) is that it’s very specific. I would much rather have heard exactly which nutritional elements I was looking to eliminate (e.g. cholesterol and saturated fats) so that I could research foods myself. I eat a lot of random foods that don’t fit into those categories but still aren’t good for my cholesterol (e.g. sweetbreads, foie gras… although I guess the latter probably counts as red meat). Also, do you think fat free cottage cheese goes in the cheese category? I like to have that for a breakfast treat sometimes, and I’m not entirely sure.

I’m especially confused because after writing down the no-list, my doctor also told me to eat fewer bananas. She gave me an explanation about how they have a lot of sugar, and even though it’s natural sugar, it can get converted to fat/cholesterol? Or something? I didn’t really understand that discussion at all. I’ve done a bunch of googling, and everything I can find says that bananas are great for people with high cholesterol and can help to lower it. So – is my doctor crazy? Or did I completely misunderstand something? Because if I’m supposed to be cutting foods that are high in sugars (even natural sugars), do I need to cut other fruits too? Pineapple is even higher in sugar than bananas, but she didn’t say anything about that.

To help educate myself, I just requested a zillion books on lowering your cholesterol from the library. (Unfortunately, I won’t be home until June to pick them up… but at least by then they should all be ready and waiting for me in a nice big stack at the checkout desk). After reading reviews on Amazon, it seems like most of the books out there are more about how to cook healthy to lower your cholesterol… which isn’t really an option for me. If anyone has any good tips or book recommendations for how to make low cholesterol choices while still eating out all the time (beyond my no-list above), I’d love to hear it.

On that note, I just ordered a book on Amazon called The Wall Street Diet, which is supposed to be aimed at those living the executive lifestyle. (I’m nowhere near an executive, but you’d never know it from my travel schedule and my dietary habits of eating at restaurants all the time.) It’s not specifically designed to reduce cholesterol – more of a weight loss book – but I think any kind of healthier eating will help. I found a little mini cheat sheet provided by the author for flights and fast food restaurants that’s actually pretty useful, so I’m hoping the book will be great too.

More updating you on past events to come, including the kick-in-the-pants I got on Saturday from THE Jillian Michaels that is really helping!


15 thoughts on “22 years old and already heart attack bound”

  1. Dang, that’s all the good food you can’t eat. Here’s a trick for you: drink a lot of hot green tea. I went on this crazy green tea thing a few years back, even beforei was running. did my annual checkup. cholesterol was 139 one year and 151 the next. green tea. google that. you’ll be surprised.

  2. Oh Razz, believe me I would loveeeeeeeeee that! I just had a grilled chicken sandwich though (hold the mayo) that wasn’t too bad.

    Kevin, I will definitely try the green tea thing! I like hot green tea too but haven’t had it in a while.

  3. Ah, the joys of watching cholesterol.

    I’m not a doctor by any stretch of the imagination, but here’s what my cardiologist has told me, and I have found as I’m fighting it myself

    Try adding 3000mg of Fish Oil (for the Omega3s) daily
    Add Walnuts you your diet daily
    The whole Oatmeal, soluble fiber thing…

    Good article here:

    Lowering LDL:
    Decrease dietary intake of saturated fats
    Decrease dietary intake of cholesterol (stay under 300 mg)
    Decrease all fats in general, no more than 30% of daily calories
    Replace saturated fats with plolyunsat. and monounsat. fats.

    Saturated Fats include
    coconut oik
    egg yolks (try egg beaters)

    ALL meats (not just red) have saturated fat. The important thing is how lean you get it.
    It’s possible to get Ground Turkey with higher fat than ground beef.
    Try rinsing your ground beef (if you eat it) after you brown it, it reduces the fat significantly

    Never heard of the bannana thing. That’s odd.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Missed some stuff…

    fat free cottage cheese would be fine, as would cheeses with no more than 3grams of fat per oz., low fat yogurt, skim milk are also OK

    I’m trying to find the electronic version of the diet recommendations they gave a while back, if I find it I’ll post another comment

  5. Hi Laura–thanks for stopping by. You should totally come for the group runs! We meet at the Super Runner’s Shop on E 89th and Lex @ 9am. I’ll probably be there the weekend of the 30th–another run closer to a free pair of shoes.

  6. I was going to suggest that you visit a dietitian; most of that stuff on the list is hard to avoid, especially if you are on the road a lot. I travel in my job and eating out is a way of life (that sucks). Sometimes it is hard to avoid eating crap.

    No need for the dietitian, though, Aaron left FABULOUS information.

  7. The banana thing sounds closer to the quacks who say not to eat fruit at all because of sugar and ohhh the dreaded carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are great for you..even with the natural sugar.

  8. Amanda, that’s exactly what I’m concerned about. Do you think I should try to find a new doctor? I’ve only been to her twice, and I like her enough, but I don’t LOVE her.

  9. Your doctor sounds blatantly anti-banana. See if the doc had one of those slip and fall incidences you see on cartoons in his/her past. That may explain a lot.

  10. I SOOOO want to hear about THE Jillian experience. Do share!

    I don’t know much about food and stuff like this, but the bananas comment threw me for a loop. Seriously, bananas are supposed to be super good for you. I wish I had some info to offer, but the last time I was at the Dr, my dr said I needed to start watching some of the food I ate because I was teetering on high chol. Your post reminds me to be a little more careful. Who knows? by now I may have similar issues.

    As far as the tri goes, You Can SOOOO do it, especially with your built up endurace. Look at what you’ve accomplished so far in this marathon you signed up for, and just did that 22 miler. You can do it with no problem and I bet you would do very well at it! I’d say Go for it!!! Just might want to swim a little between now and then, that’s all.

  11. As someone in the health field I highly suggest you go to a nutritionist and/or a dietitian to get more specifics. Each case differs greatly and with your LDL being double what it should be I’d definitely err on the side of caution.

    Regular G.P.’s get approx. 25hrs. of nutritional information while in med. school so while they can give you some advice you’d be better off with a specialist in the field.

    Good luck!

  12. Kirsten, thanks for the info about training! Knowing that regular doctors get that little nutritional training makes me feel like maybe my doctor isn’t compiletely crazy – just not totally informed. And now I have an excuse to start going to a nutritionist, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while! Yay 🙂

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