Friday, March 30, 2012

A Good Day

Funny about what makes for a good day. There are lots of things that can give you a positive kick that just puts you in a completely positive mood all day, but today I was surprised what did it for me. Today I had a good doctors visit. Maybe I'm getting old, but going to the doctor and having him totally happy with how healthy I am has kept me on a high all day.

Like most of my family, I have had issues with high cholesterol. For the past couple decades I've tried various things to try and bring down my cholesterol, including Niacin supplements which require a rather large dose to be effective at bringing down high cholesterol, and have some really nasty side effects if you don't very carefully build up to those doses. In more recent history my doctor has prescribed statins for me. In recent years, statins seem to be really popular means for controlling cholesterol. Some doctors I know take statins because they believe its beneficial even though they don't have high cholesterol. However more recently I've seen more information about the negative side of statins, at least if you don't have heart disease or have suffered a heart attack. Statins can be very hard on your liver, and some people (such as myself) can suffer some very unpleasant side effects from statins.

After experiencing negative side effects with my second statin prescription, I decided to try an experiment an just quit my statin. I didn't tell my doctor about this and didn't plan on telling him until our next visit, nearly 6 months after I quit the statin (for what it's worth, I don't recommend anyone ignore their physicians recommendations ever. In hind sight it was probably a bad idea on my part). I was worried my doctor would prescribe a new statin, or more so I was worried that I wouldn't fight for my own opinion and tell my doctor what I wanted to do, and I wanted to see if I could get the cholesterol down myself.

Generally you hear that if your cholesterol is too high you need to try diet and exercise, and if that doesn't work try a statin. But I wondered, how many typical American's REALLY try dieting and exercise at the serious life changing level. Unrelated to my issues with high cholesterol I had taken up a rather drastic change in lifestyle, going from a coach potato to a runner. As I increased my running distance I found that with running came a change in diet (I found I couldn't eat a giant cheese burger and then go run ten miles). Originally, I had taken up running because as I was turning 39, and I was being hit with a bit of a mid-life crisis, and I wanted to climb Mt. Rainier before I turned 40. I took up running as one of the ways of getting myself in shape for the exploit. Ultimately I successfully summited Rainer, but I really took to the running. Later that same year I ran my first marathon, the next Spring I ran my second marathon, followed by my first 50k, and then a three day 93 mile run around Mt. Rainier's Wonderland trail, followed by another marathon and another 50k this past February. As I was running more and more, I was also working on changing my diet. Less meat, especially red meat, more fish, more fresh vegetables and whole grains, less processed foods. I wanted to see if all of these changes would make any difference in my cholesterol. My fear was that genetics outweigh everything else, and that my cholesterol would be super high after taking 6 months off of any statins or any specific medicine or supplement to bring down my cholesterol. The good news is that although my cholesterol was slightly higher than my last visit, it was definitely low enough for my doctor to believe my experiment had been successful; no new medications!

So what's the secret? Well, I'm no doctor, nutritionist, athlete or health expert, (basically I don't know what I'm talking about) but what I've come to believe is that in the past half century Americans have become a bunch of lazy, complaining whiners, who eat crap. I believe the typical American eats food where they don't even really know what's in it. We sit at desks all day long, then sit in our car for a long commute home, then sit in front of a television, before going to bed, and then repeating the whole thing again. Maybe there is 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise completed in a heated or airconditioned gym to interrupt an otherwise sedentary life style. It doesn't take much thought to realize this can't be good. However, I know it's really hard to change out of that lifestyle. For me, I couldn't make a small change, I had to go overboard about it, and then keep pushing further away from that.