Friday, May 17, 2013
A lot of people have asked me in recent weeks about my cholesterol before my heart attack. I've been telling people that when I had it checked in 2005 it was high, but I had not had it checked since then. I couldn't remember what the number actually was.
Last night, I was skimming through my journal and discovered that I had actually written about it back when I had it checked.
To begin with, it was in 2006, not 2005, so it was seven years before my heart attack. Ironically enough, I had the blood drawn March 20, 2006, and got the results "a few days later," which means that I may have learned about my high cholesterol seven years to the exact day before my heart attack (which was March 23, 2013).
Anyway, I didn't record the individual components (HDL/LDL/triglycerides) but my total number was 268. Under 200 is the recommended healthy level, and anything over 240 is considered "high cholesterol." According to the American Heart Association, anyone with cholesterol over 240 is more than twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease than people under 200.
For six weeks after that test, I altered my eating habits, reduced my drinking (actually quit drinking all together because my liver enzymes were high too), and started generally watching what I ate. I remember the doctor specifically said that, because of my high liver enzymes, he didn't want to put me on cholesterol medicine because it can be hard on the liver.
I was re-tested in early May of that year and the liver enzymes were back to normal, and my cholesterol had dropped 26 points. I didn't record the conversation with my doctor, but apparently he was satisfied that my cholesterol was dropping and probably encouraged me to keep eating healthy and to get the cholesterol re-checked the following year. As far as I remember, no discussion was had again of putting me on cholesterol medicine.
For the next seven years, I never had my cholesterol checked again. During that period, my eating habits went downhill dramatically and became the nightmare I have previously described, I gained about 40 pounds, I had a second child, I started full time night classes while still working full time during the day, I began smoking, and I developed sleep disturbances, including mild sleep apnea, with abnormal sleep patterns.
I'll never know for sure what my cholesterol was by the time I had my heart attack, but there's little reason to believe it was anything other than through the roof. If it was nearly 270 in 2006, it was probably 350 by 2013. Even if it was still "just" 270ish, that's still very high.
I'll be having my cholesterol checked in about a month, and I'm very interested to see what it will be after three months of the healthiest living I've ever done as an adult, plus a high-dose cholesterol medicine.
In other news, I was off yesterday and today because this is my weekend to work. I'll be going in a 10:30 tonight. My third shifts are different now that I am healthier and don't smoke. I used to have no trouble sleeping all day and therefore being alert and ready to go for an all night shift, and it helped that I took a lot of smoke breaks. I usually also ate a very large meal in the cafeteria. Now I sleep like a normal person, which means I have trouble sleeping during the day before a third shift, which results in being super tired all night, and of course I don't smoke anymore so I don't have that stimulant to keep me awake. I also don't consume caffeine or sugary drinks anymore.
The result is that I tend to dread my third shifts now, instead of looking forward to them like I used to, because I know I'll be tired and lethargic.
Last weekend I went to the ER because I was having heart palpitations. I've had them all along since my heart attack, but it alarmed me because I was having more than usual, and they felt more "intense," so I went to the ER as a precaution. Blood work and EKG were both fine, but they put me on a 48-hour heart monitor just to be sure. I wore it until Monday night and returned it Tuesday. I'm going today to see my cardiologist to get the results. I didn't really feel like I had many, if any, palpitations while I was on the monitor, so I'm curious to see if I had them and just didn't know it.
At my last weigh-in, which was Wednesday, my weight was down to 226. That's nearly 30 pounds from my pre-heart attack weight. Another 30 or so and I'll have reached my goal.
In February of 2003, just before the start of the Iraq War, a Gallup poll showed that 93% of Americans believed it was either "certain" or "likely" that Iraq had so-called weapons of mass destruction. You may recall, of course, that the existence of these WMD's (as they are called) was the primary justification for invading Iraq in the first place. Unless you live under a rock, you probably also know that, when it was all said and done, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found.
The Iraq War officially began on March 20, 2003. On March 28, 2003, I wrote a very lengthy entry in my journal, hashing out all my feelings after the first week of the war and talking specifically about the very widespread (at 93%, it was almost universal) belief at the time that Iraq had those pesky WMD's.
Here's what I wrote:
Why do I feel like the lone voice of reason in a vacuum of insanity? Is the whole world insane, or am I the one who is crazy? It’s an interesting question, and with each passing day, I get
further away from knowing the answer...I mean, clearly, there are plenty of anti-war people out there who would agree with every word I've written tonight, but they are a small few. Is it possible that the vast majority of Americans are just wrong on this count?
Deep down, I believe yes. And I believe time will back me up on this. This war is wrong, our reasons for being involved in it our wrong, our justification for it is wrong, and I believe history will show it to have been a big mistake for this country. I do not believe much, if any, good will come from this war. Sure, we will probably get rid of Saddam. But you can’t bomb people into democracy...
I guess we’ll see in another ten years whether you should call me Nostradamus.
I don't want to say "I told you so," but....