I have Hypercholesterolemia

IMG_4661I am back after an absolutely magnificent trip to Scotland. If you have never been, you really must go. Put it on your bucket list. I would live there, no doubt. I loved it!

I came back feeling much better than before I left, and coming out of that funk made me realize that I need to be more proactive about taking care of myself emotionally. I was diagnosed Bipolar II in 1999, but I hadn’t had symptoms (that I could recognize) since 2011 or so, and I hadn’t had therapy since 2005. When everything started slowly unraveling in my family, traces of the emotional cycling began. Then I lost several people in short order. Then current events (and people’s posts about the events on social media) began piling on top of me. Eventually I was in the midst of a full-on funk. I was in a very dark place for a few months. I can hardly function during those nadirs, which is why I took nearly all of May and June off this year. It’s July, and I’m only just now starting to feel like I can begin a lighter travel schedule again. But part of what I did decide while I have the clarity of mood, thought, and energy is that I need to seek help from a therapist WHILE I FEEL GOOD. I will not do it while I feel bad, so I have to do it NOW. In this way the relationship and resources will already be in place when I eventually downshift again. I will see my new councilor for the first time on Monday. So, I feel productive for finally taking this step after more than a decade of avoiding it. Also, it was time to do my semi-annual HIV/STI test, and I needed to do a follow up after my horrible cholesterol results from January.

I have Hypercholesterolemia.

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What the fuck???? I exercise 3-6 times per week, depending on how motivated my moods allow me to be. But when I do work out, I go intensely. I drink a gallon of water every day! I went practically fucking vegan these last couple months! GRRRRRR!

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full body

April 2009: #130, ~8% fat, vs, April 2014: #160, ~16% fat

7/31/2012: In 2012 I was already in the midst of a weight gain phase that lasted from 2010 until 2013 (see progress pic at left illustrating 2009 vs 2014). I was purposefully and specifically avoiding cardio/dance and eating vast amounts of food (much of it junk, meat, and dairy), as I purposefully added 30 pounds to my frame (much of it as body fat, not muscle = “doing a dirty bulk”). I was focusing on gaining mass. The doctor told me to increase my cardio, but I put that off for six months.

April 2014: #160, ~16% body fat, vs. April 2015: #145, ~12% body fat

April 2014: #160, ~16% fat, vs. June 2015: #145, ~12% fat

1/6/2015: In 2013 I started a protracted leaning phase. I began 18 months of intermittent fasting, and started doing High Intensity Interval Training three times per week. I think the fasting and cardio training must have radically improved my triglycerides and VLDL, but I can’t explain why the LDL would spike (I was eating LOTS of Chipotle in 2013/2014, but food cholesterol isn’t supposed to be affecting serum cholesterol).

7/9/2015: Anyway, after I got the January 2015 results I immediately cut out Chipotle, cleaned my diet up SIGNIFICANTLY, but then cleaned it up even more in May when I went practically vegan on the advice of my new trainer (see progress pic at right illustrating 2014 vs 2015). In the last six months my triglycerides and VLDL improved again, but my LDL went up slightly in spite of everything. Ergo: Time to look at options for pills when nothing the body does on its own is enough.

The reason I am posting this is to impress that no matter how you appear, regardless what you think your fitness levels indicate, you really must get your annual physicals. While I was without insurance, prior to the Affordable Care Act, I tried for many years to just do the best I could with diet and exercise (1999 was not only the year I was diagnosed Bipolar II, it was also the year I got my first cholesterol test, and it was already at +190 way back then – I had insurance while I was in graduate school at UCLA). Driving blind is what landed me in my 2012 situation, which I then assumed I could “fix” on my own with diet and exercise. I waited nearly three years to check on it again, and suddenly my doctor was threatening to put me on statins. Six months later, and I was assuming yet again that the improved diet, training, and aesthetic results would indicate all is well. Nope.

Assuming you know everything about your wellness can lead to dangerous health risks going unmonitored. No matter how conditioned/fit or deconditioned/fat you are, do make sure you are getting as full a picture as possible of what is happening inside your body. My dad suffered multiple strokes, but I wasn’t surprised: He still abuses his body and neglects his health/wellness. The worst thing about his strokes may be that he survived them. He is utterly debilitated and miserable. I do NOT want that for myself.

Author: Devon Hunter

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  1. But look at your triglycerides! They are at a good level now ; they decreased dramatically since 2012 and again significantly over the last 6 months.

    HDL could be higher, in absolute value and this would also improve the HDL to total cholesterol ratio. If you are following a strict vegan diet then you are not eating any fatty fish. You could try putting them back into your diet (several times a week) and doing another test in a few months.

    What is your vegan diet composition?

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  2. Hey Greg,

    I’m not consistently vegan. Vegan days happen by accident, not by design. When I find myself craving animal-based foods, I do have some eggs and/or dairy. When I eat out with friends/clients, I don’t make a big deal out of my current eating style, and I eat like an omnivore with them. If I go too long without animal-based foods I find that I get depressed/angry. I eat a cup of Greek yogurt, and everything is fine.

    In terms of what I eat daily:
    -Various fruits/vegetables of all colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple)
    -Oatmeal sweetened with raw honey for breakfast most days
    -Alternating days of quinoa, lentils, and/or black beans
    -Fat sources: Avocados, mixed seeds, mixed nuts, coconut oil, ground flax meal

    After workouts I have two scoops of whey protein powder (50 g of dairy based protein), and I work out 3-6 times/week most weeks. Occasionally I make eggs, but lately I haven’t been. I have them in the fridge though. I don’t keep any dairy in the house anymore. I do have tilapia in the freezer right now.

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  3. Seems like a good pattern IMHO, including the eggs and full-fat dairy. My 2 cts would be to add:
    – fatty fish 3 times a week: salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, … There does appear to be strong evidence of the benefits of this (but *not* for omega-3 supplements). I always have some canned wild salmon on hand which I can quickly combine with vegetables.
    – olive oil for dressing and cooking, providing MUFA. Coconut oil is almost entirely saturated fat so best to balance with other types of oils/fats.

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  4. Keep experimenting to find what works best for your body!

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  5. I just had my first session with a therapist/councilor. I think it will be very helpful.

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  6. Good news! That you are yourself encouraged by it is great.

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