Friday, May 17, 2013
Notes from the Cave
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.