Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Numbers Revisited

244, 136, 92, 90, 120/72, 27.5

The numbers are in from my latest blood work: overall cholesterol, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“happy” cholesterol), triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and BMI.

For comparison, the recommended numbers for most people are:
  • Overall cholesterol <200 dl="" li="" mg="">
  • LDL <130 dl="" li="" mg="">
  • HDL >60 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides <100 dl="" li="" mg="">
  • Blood pressure 120/80
  • BMI 25 or less

Compared to when I wrote about this before (See “Lady in Red, Do You Know Your Numbers?”), my HDL still has a slight edge over LDL, but not as much as it did. Triglycerides are hanging in there, but the overall number is up, higher than it’s been in a long while. Years. Many years.

Higher-than-normal cholesterol levels are in my genetics. A few of my thin and not-so-thin kin need medication to control it. But I know my levels can be controlled through diet and exercise. I can’t use genetics as an excuse. Or menopause. Or daylight savings.

Refuse to Regain’s Barbara Berkeley recently posted a blog about how weight gain isn’t a simple ratio of too many calories consumed to too few calories burned. She wrote: “Weight gain appears to be much more related to the specific ways in which our individual bodies dispose of (or store) the foods we eat.”  

This is most definitely true for me. I don’t process a piece of cake the way my boyfriend does. I can’t look at Thanksgiving stuffing without gaining five pounds. The same is true for cholesterol. The foods I eat and how my body processes them directly impacts not only my scale number, but my lipid battery numbers. Cholesterol follows my scale number like a dance partner – from my heaviest weight (300+) to my goal weight (138) to my lowest weight (125) to the weight I am now (165).

All of my numbers improve when I eat: 7-9 servings of fruits and veggies (mostly veggies) a day; beans and legumes several times a week; one or two daily servings of reduced-fat dairy; eggs (mostly egg whites); grains such as brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, and oats; a serving or two a week of soy products such as edamame or tofu; and five or six servings a week of nuts, like almonds and walnuts. Oh…and green tea every day. I also like a bit of seafood now and then: white fish, tuna, scallops, mussels, shrimp and canned salmon.

I know “low-fat” diets aren’t in anymore, but when I eat fatty foods, including olive oil and the new darling of the nutrition world, full-fat dairy, I feel queasy and really full. I hate that full feeling. It makes me tired. Slows me down. Fat isn’t my thing. Neither is sugar or white flour. But clearly I’ve been consuming them to varying degrees since my last blood draw, damn any full and queasy feeling. I knowingly (and regretfully) increased my white flour and sugar consumption, and, no doubt, saturated fat tagged along. Thus an embarrassingly high overall cholesterol number (and a rising BMI…ugh…).

That’s what got me on the weight-loss band wagon nearly 10 years ago. My numbers. They were abysmal (triglycerides were 300!) and you KNOW I wasn’t exercising one bit.

A scale number doesn’t scare me half as much as a cholesterol number, but knowing I can control both through what I eat and how I move is like opening a window on a beautiful spring day. There is hope in change, in eating right, in moving, and there is power in having the key to success. I know what works for me. I have documented proof.

But my digestive system isn’t your digestive system. We each need to find the foods that work best for our overall health and well-being.

WebMD has a spiffy little quiz to give you a quick “back of the envelope” primer on cholesterol. And the Mayo Clinic offers these “Top 5 Foods" to eat to help lower your cholesterol.

Do you know what your numbers are? If not, don’t be afraid! Knowledge is power, and armed with your numbers, you can carve out a diet that works for you to keep your arteries free flowing.

7 comments:

  1. Upside, according to Katherine Flegal et. al. your BMI is the MOST ideal with regard to mortality. They took people's BMIs and looked at only one data point: who was alive ten years later? You guessed it. I think it was 27.6, actually. Makes sense. If someone in the 27 range get hit by the Big C or other body-wasting disease, you have some reserves to help you fight it. Now, naysayers will argue that a 27 is associated with more co-morbidities (such as diabetes, etc.) but, hey, is it better to be alive with co-morbidities or dead with none? That said, I also "get" the desire to relose weight for complicated reasons. If you want to know how I managed it, shoot me an email: sappyarwood at att dot net. What I know about your maintenance technique, it's similar enough to mine to be adapted for a re-loss.

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  2. Upside, according to Katherine Flegal et. al. your BMI is the MOST ideal with regard to mortality. They took people's BMIs and looked at only one data point: who was alive ten years later? You guessed it. I think it was 27.6, actually. Makes sense. If someone in the 27 range get hit by the Big C or other body-wasting disease, you have some reserves to help you fight it. Now, naysayers will argue that a 27 is associated with more co-morbidities (such as diabetes, etc.) but, hey, is it better to be alive with co-morbidities or dead with none? That said, I also "get" the desire to relose weight for complicated reasons. If you want to know how I managed it, shoot me an email: sappyarwood at att dot net. What I know about your maintenance technique, it's similar enough to mine to be adapted for a re-loss.

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  3. Now that our new insurance has kicked in (such as is is), it's time for another round of blood work for me. My numbers have always been pretty good over the years save for BMI.

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  4. You and me--the cholesterol number inching up there was what got me losing weight last year! And its good to know I've got a friend on the "old-fashioned" low fat bandwagon. I just do better that way too.

    It does us no good to look wistfully at how other people process food ("I don't process a piece of cake the way my boyfriend does")--I do that too often, and just have to tell myself ONE MORE TIME you're not like other people.

    Good reminder, Lynn. I need to get my bloodwork done this year (in fact, I think it was one of the many things going through my mind as I DIDN'T sleep last night!)

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  5. Numbers like BP, cholesterol, etc. matter far more to me than numbers on a scale. No matter how I eat, my numbers have always been pretty good except for HDL (too low) and blood pressure (too high). They're both better since I lost weight, but still not quite optimal. I think exercise played a more important role than diet for me.

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  6. ahhh I need to find me an OAKLAND place to procure my numbers....

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  7. I agree. Everyone's body is different and you know better than anyone what makes it feel good and what makes it feel sluggish. There is no 'one size fits all.' I think more and more people are realizing it, and I'm hoping everyone can find their balance like you have!

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