“We need to talk about your cholesterol,” Dr. L. said at a recent visit. He was smiling. He looked happy.
Ha, I thought smiling back, THIS will be a short conversation. I’d seen the results from the fasting cholesterol panel I had drawn earlier in the month. All the numbers were comfortably within the normal ranges.
“Your LDL is borderline high,” Dr. L. informed me. “We need to take some steps to lower it.”
What?! I was really glad the nurse had already taken my blood pressure because it wasn’t headed anywhere good.
“But the sheet I got from the lab said everything was within normal ranges,” I protested.
“They would be if you were a normal person,” Dr. L. informed me.
I have a wicked heart arrhythmia. Left to its own devices, my heart will beat too fast and/or out of rhythym and/or occasionally not at all. Not normal. A cocktail of meds keeps it on-line for the most part. Better living through chemistry.
The Farmer was going to love this. He’s been waiting years for someone to confirm that I’m not normal. He’d probably even pay my co-pay for this appointment just to hear the doctor say it again.
The first thing that popped into my mind was Sheldon’s line from The Big Bang Theory, “I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested.” That didn’t seem like an appropriate thing to say, however. Apparently not being crazy does not automatically make you normal.
“But you have a heart condition and I’d like to see your LDL lower than it is now. Your current level puts you at an elevated risk. Let’s make some dietary changes and test again in six months.” Dr. L. seemed entirely too happy about telling me to change my eating habits.
It was one of those WTF moments. I’ve always thought I ate a reasonably healthy diet. I like fruits and vegetables and eat them daily, both fresh and cooked. I actually like broccoli. I love whole grain bread and pasta and am adamant about low-fat cooking. I cook chicken without the skin and have elevated the commandment “trim visible fat” to a new art form. I make egg white omelettes and read nutrition labels . I’m the freaking poster child for high fiber breakfast cereal.
I also love bacon cheeseburgers, ribeye steak, baked potatoes with sour cream AND butter, every bakery product known to man and pretty much anything that can be handed out a drive-through window.
The fact that I wasn’t “normal” meant my eating habits were being held to a higher standard. Maybe my diet wasn’t as good as I thought it was. I was the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of healthy eating.
Dr. L. said he usually counsels patients with cholesterol issues to stop smoking, loose weight and start an exercise program. Since I don’t smoke, am not overweight and already exercise, he didn’t know what to do with me. The only thing left for him to go after was my diet. My friends know food is very important to me - talking about it, shopping for it, preparing it, anticipating it, eating it and reminiscing about it. To suddenly have the proverbial tablecloth jerked out from under me was a bit unsettling.
If the diet thing doesn’t work, it’s hello, Lipitor.
Fine. Just fine. Maybe I’ll take the popular option, eschew all personal responsibility and blame genetics.
My dad (non smoker, not overweight, lifetime of physical labor as a farmer) had high cholesterol, too, which lead to an eventual heart attack. They didn’t find out about the cholesterol until after the heart attack. I’m happy not to have followed that family tradition.
My next cholesterol test is in August. Until then, I’ve put the smack down on fast food. I’m making better decisions when the Farmer and I go out to eat. I’m all about anything grilled. I’ve amped up my oatmeal intake. I actually bought salmon yesterday. Wait. Let me amend that - I bought salmon for ME, not the dogs.