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Shed U: Report Cards

Posted Mar 23 2010 9:20am

I’m sure you remember that last month I wrote all about cholesterol as a Shed U lesson and then went and had my cholesterol and fasting glucose tested as part of Go Red month. Well, it occurred to me that it might be worth it to, oh, find out what exactly my test results were!

This is sort of a good idea in general. I mean, with a lot of tests, we assume “No news is good news,” because that’s how most doctors operate…but still, sometimes it’s worth it to confirm. You don’t want to be the one who slips through the cracks. I mean, you wouldn’t study for finals and then not check your grades (although I think most of us have done that at least once because we knew there was one really bad one).  But seriously, you have to follow up on your other tests as well.

So I called my doctor and asked them to make me a copy of my results, which was no problem at all. And then, in the privacy of my own home, I reviewed them. Well, first, I just stared at the paper in a head-scratching, “WTF does all this science stuff mean?” moment, but eventually I was able to find what I was looking for.

I knew enough about cholesterol to know that a desirable level of overall cholesterol is 200. 195 to me was like…a D minus. Yes, I passed, but….HOW ON EARTH COULD I NEARLY FAIL WHEN I STUDY EVERY DAY?

I e-mailed Leah in a rage/panic and she assured me that I should not freak out about this. First, my HDL (good cholesterol; remember H = hot = should be HIGH) was, in fact, high and my LDL (L = loser = should be LOW) was indeed low.

Second, Leah has been reading up a lot on cholesterol and saturated fat and the new research that shows there’s a lot more to this picture! She actually posted on my original cholesterol post and made me aware of the new research in terms of saturated fat, heart disease, and cholesterol, and she’s sort of taken this topic under her wing. She gave me some great Web sites to check out. One interesting quote:

“The latest research into LDL shows that there are actually sub-categories of this cholesterol transporter and that some are more dangerous than others. The larger, more billowy LDL particles are now thought to have little or no significant role in heart disease. On the other hand, the smaller, dense LDL particles are the ones believed to be most involved in the process of inflammation that begins the atherosclerosis cascade. And wouldn’t you know it, but it’s a diet high in simple carbs that most readily promotes the formation of these small LDL particles! Unfortunately, this important distinction is probably something your doctor knows very little about, yet it’s the number of small particle LDL that might be the most important reading in any cholesterol test. So a total cholesterol of, say, 230 or even 250 might not be dangerous at all if your HDL is high and your small particle LDL is low.”

As you can see, it’s a lottttttt of science stuff that sort of makes my head spin, but the bottom line is…we’re still learning a lot about cholesterol, fat, and heart disease! I just read in this month’s Cooking Light how certain types of saturated fat are looking like they are actually pretty good, and Leah told me that from what she’s been reading, saturated fat (as we have been taught to think of it) isn’t linked to heart disease as much as we previously thought.

We had a good chat about all this and I am definitely interested in reading more on this topic, as I have no doubt it’s going to be a big one over the next few years.

I also realized that my “bad grade” isn’t a huge deal, and here’s why.

  • I study hard — and by “study,” I mean, “do everything I can to be healthy.” I eat the right foods (and I rarely eat meat or dairy, although how much that has an effect remains to be seen) and I exercise regularly. I know that I’m doing my best.
  • Sometimes a test isn’t about the grade — it’s about what you learn. I mean, if you can pass a test but you can’t put stuff into practice, that’s pretty lame. And if you have lower cholesterol but you eat like crap and don’t work out, then you haven’t learned the material.
  • A bad grade is motivation to improve. Not that I am obsessed with changing that number, but I’m actually really happy I know what that number is! Now I have a baseline and I can see how certain lifestyle factors change my cholesterol over the years.

And, to be honest, I’d rather do badly on my cholesterol test than on some other medical tests I can think of…so I’m just going to take this one in stride!

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