I’ve always been way more of a jock than is usual for female-bodied adults living in the USA, although probably no more so than the average healthy male. Nevertheless, for the first 60 years, I was occupying a female body and the result (not counting pregnancies) was I managed to stay at a “normal” weight for my height despite an inordinate love of food in all of it’s most fatty and sugary combinations.
So it was with great surprise that the lipid panel my doctor ordered (Jan 2004) when I told him I wanted to start male hormones came back sorta bad:
So, my unrestricted, “natural” diet at age 59 leads me to have total cholesterol level at 262 mg/dL with the “bad” cholesterol at 173. Although, according to the Framingham 30-year CV risk calculator (which wasn’t available at the time), since my HDL was so high, these are actually very good numbers,
but, I think my doctor is expecting the numbers to get a whole lot worse once I start the hormones. And indeed, they did get a little worse.
Following the spreadsheet story above, I went on his “heart healthy” diet for the next 3 1/2 months, was successful at lowering those “bad” numbers, got my script for male hormones and watched as my cholesterol took it’s first little baby step in its subsequent upward journey (see Oct ’04).
My family history is replete with coronary artery disease, so the October lipid panel got my attention and I began taking over-the-counter red yeast rice (RYR), a “natural” statin, and commited to regular, hard exercise. The RYR dropped my numbers big time (see Jan ’05) and I felt very gratified.
For the better part of 2005, I continued to get my LP tested every month or two and, although my HDLs were falling (thank you, androgens), I think it’s all well and good. I’m doing a low-SFA sorta Zone diet and it seems to be doing the job. In early October, I decided to try a vegan experiment to see how I would feel and how it would affect my lipid numbers. At the time, I was keeping a LiveJournal blog and sharing the Vegan Experiment with my friends – because how I was feeling was awesome and the extra carbs greatly improved my strength and cardio endurance. Three weeks into veganism, on a whim I got my LP retested early and threw in an HbA1c.
Here’s the results:
I was a little concerned about the HbA1c, but very happy about the new, impressively low LDL!! When I posted this, one of my LJ friends advised caution on going too low on the cholesterol numbers because studies had shown increased mortality below TC 150.
I was incredulous. My doctor and all the online health advisories gave me the impression that you couldn’t go too low with the “bad” cholesterol; the lower the better and zero would be perfect!
Long story short, the A1c plus the warning from my friend plus a few hours with google introducing myself to the side effects of statins convinced me to end the vegan experiment and stop the RYR! Three weeks later, a retest showed that my lipid panel numbers were on their way back to their pre-veganism levels.
Over the next several years, my LP numbers stayed within the guidelines and there seemed to be no further need for diet experimentation. … to be continued