Posts Tagged ‘cholesterol’

The switch from “want to want to” to “want to”.

April 21, 2010

I don’t know what switch was turned on for me.  For years I have been overweight and frustrated by it, and complained about it, and threatened to so something about it, but it was more of a want to want to than an actual want to.  I knew it was unhealthy and I knew I “should” do something about it (I am really good at “shoulding” on myself).  Many of my friends were, and are,  very encouraging, but still I did nothing.

Then the cancer was diagnosed (a cancer that is fed and supported in its development by the excess estrogen produced in fat cells) and still I wanted to want to but did nothing.  I talked about doing something, I laid elaborate plans for things I would do that I didn’t do.  I even joined a gym and kind of went, but didn’t really push it much while I was there.

I got the operation report for my cancer surgery and read all about the problems encountered and actions taken as a result of my obesity, but still could only find the “want to want to” in myself.  I attended support groups, nutritional counseling and in-depth workshops.  They all supported my fantasy that I was doing something, but I was still not moving my body nor changing my eating.

Then, one day, I was.  I signed up to participate in training for a triathlon (the Danskin) and I knew I would probably be the heaviest and most out of shape person there (I still am) and it was scary and uncomfortable and yet, suddenly, I was willing to go.  I was suddenly willing to do what it takes to take control back over my life, my body, my health–everything.  I wish I could pinpoint what made the switch turn on.  If I could do that, I could make a fortune turning everyone elses “want to want to” to a “want to”.  But I can’t.  All I know is that finding a set goal and a set group of people who could provide the tools without judgment to get me there, who could see for me what I couldn’t see for and in myself, has been a huge part of it.  It would seem that in my endless planning and attempting that I actually put myself in the way of the answer for me.

So, I am training (not as hard as some of the others, but training none the less) 5 days a week.  And, while not a flattering picture of me in any way, here is proof that it doesn’t matter how big I am or how out of shape I am, I CAN DO IT if I just decide to. And so can you, when you decide.

I would love to hear about your journey from “want to want to” to “want to.”

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Follow up to yesterday–eating out doesn’t mean eating unhealthy–but it can mean eating boring.

April 20, 2010

Don’t get me wrong. I love salads.  Salads can be full of wonderful textures and a variety of tastes and colors–and they can be incredibly healthy.  But, that is not the only option when you are not eating meat.  Except, when it is.  And that is just annoying and frustrating to me.

In a town that is health conscious, it seems to me people who are setting up luncheons in a restaurant, you could find some vegetarian option.  Not today.  The only option was to choose the salad and have them hold the meat.  But, good news for everyone else.  Meat is free!.  It must be, because I paid the same for my salad without meat as everyone else did for salmon or chicken.  And here I always thought the veggies were the least expensive part.  Apparently I was wrong. Or maybe the meat was already on the salad and they had to charge me the same to cover the cost of removing it?  I am not sure, but all in all a very frustrating lunch.

How hard can it be to think outside the narrow little box of lettuce?  And then, lettuce covered in some type of creamy, sweet dressing.  Healthy?  Doesn’t seem so to me.  I have been posting healthy, fun, easy and inexpensive vegetarian recipes for several weeks now without resorting to plain lettuce salad (my bad–it also had avocado and a few tortilla strips) and a creamy dressing to give it flavor.  I would think restaurants would be better able to come up with creative ideas than demonstrated today.

So, okay, I think I am done with the rant.

But I also know I won’t order food at that restaurant again.

Recipes for day 2 of 28 day cleanse–no lettuce here!

March 30, 2010

Still no lettuce, but some really yummy food.

For dinner last night, we made Spicy Thai coconut soup (and although the recipe usually calls for tofu, since I can’t eat it, we made it without tofu but feel free to add it if you like.) It also suggests serving the soup over cooked quinoa to add additional protein, but I don’t care for quinoa, so I substituted another dish with beans (White Bean and Black Olive spread)  instead.

Does an apple a day keep the doctor away?

September 22, 2009

There is an old saying: “ An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It turns out this saying may have a lot of truth to it. Fruits, especially apples, contain impressive amounts of nutrients.apple
So, what makes apples so important? Let’s consider some of the apple’s components and their effect on our health:

  • Pectin: Can help lower blood glucose, blood cholesterol and fats.  Can also help regulate elimination.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Contains Boron, Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Vitamin C.
  • Anti-oxidants: Including Quercitin, which can decrease the risk of lung and breast cancer, as well as age-related problems like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Nature’s toothbrush: helps kill bacteria in the mouth, decreasing incidence of cavities, gum inflammation and abscesses.

Apples are a low calorie dense food, meaning they are filling, satisfying, yet are low in calories.  And, with so many varieties available, eating an apple every day doesn’t get boring.

Apples can help maintain health

While apples can help you maintain health, they are not going to prevent all illnesses.  Many other factors contribute to maintaining health.  It is important to include other foods that provide other nutrients as well.  Many other fruits are also healing fruits.apples

Why focus on apples?

Apples are easy to grow, provide a variety of tastes and can stay fresh and tasty for a long time.

While it is important to eat a varied diet, apples are an easy and tasty way to get many of the nutrients that support health.  So, enjoy an apple and see if “eating an apple a day helps you keep the doctor at bay”.

How to know if Statin drugs are right for you. What you should know about Statin (Cholesterol) drugs before filling the prescription

July 14, 2009

Statin drugs are among the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in this country and include:  Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin) and Lescol (fluvastatin).

According to medical studies, pharmaceutical studies, medical literature and manufacturer’s promotional materials, Statin drugs lower cholesterol, thereby decreasing plaque buildup in the arteries and decreasing heart attacks.  Recently, a number of studies actually question the validity of some of these claims.

Statin drugs work by inhibiting the action of an enzyme in the liver (HMGCo-A reductase), which reduces the ability of the liver to make cholesterol, thus decreasing the cholesterol in the blood.  Some researchers suggest this also leads to a decrease in the size of plaques in the arteries as well as a decrease in inflammation in the arteries, which leads to the plaque deposits.  However, only small scale studies have been done to look at these effects and the results are ambiguous.  Many studies, do however show, that people with normal cholesterol levels can have heart disease and plaque in the arteries, and people with high cholesterol  can have little plaque in the arteries.  So, what is the contributing factor?  Is it cholesterol?  Most recent research indicates that inflammation is the biggest factor in heart attack, heart disease and plaque formation.  Many physicians are now looking at a protein known to indicate generalized inflammation, known as C-reactive protein, or CRP.

This leads to the question: Do I really need a statin drug and what are the benefits of taking one?  The benefits include a lowering of “bad” cholesterol, lowering of blood triglyerides and, sometimes, a slight elevation of “good” cholesterol.  Is this important?  It depends on your body, lifestyle and medical conditions.  It is important to look at more than just one indicator of health.  Additional factors, such as inflammation, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, etc. also play an important role in heart health.

What are the downsides to taking a statin?  Statin drugs change how the liver functions by inhibiting the action of a key enzyme in the liver, and, recent studies indicate, also in the brain.  Depending on which studies are reviewed, side effects from this inhibition can affect anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent of those taking a statin drug.  And, unlike many medications, the side effects may not show up immediately.  Some people easily take the drug for two or three years before side effects show up; others experience side effects almost immediately. Some of the side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Gas
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Abnormal liver enzyme function
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Peripheral neuropathy–numbness, tingling and pain in extremities and feet
  • Cognitive changes, such as memory changes, inability to concentrate and difficulty remembering words
  • Decreased production of Co-enzyme Q 10 (Ubiquinone), an antioxidant necessary for heart muscle health
  • Decreased production of Squalene, an antioxidant necessary for breast health and cancer inhibition

There are some things you can do to support your health before you decide to take a statin drug.

  1. Break a sweat.  Aerobic exercise promotes heart muscle strengthening and efficiency, increases the production of “good” cholesterol and decreases the inflammatory response, lowering the CRP levels.
  2. Lose belly fat:  Belly fat is correlated with high CRP levels. Belly fat is the easiest fat to lose through exercise and healthy diet.
  3. Quit smoking:  Smoking any type of tobacco substance increases the inflammatory response.
  4. Take a Niacin supplement: Niacin has a beneficial action of relaxing arterial walls, promoting efficient muscle contraction of the heart and decreasing inflammation while supporting liver function, raising “good” cholesterol levels (up to 35%) and lowering “bad”.  Some practitioners support taking regular Niacin, which can have a profoundly uncomfortable flushing effect, while others find taking a non-flushing Niacin to be just as effective.  The recommendation is 500 mg twice a day.
  5. Take Omega 3 Fish Oil: A powerful antioxidant that decreases inflammation, it is also effective at lowering blood triglycerides.  The American Heart Association suggests a minimum dose of 1000 mg twice each day and a maximum dose of 2000 mg twice each day.
  6. Red Yeast Rice (Monascus purpureus): Often sold as a natural cholesterol lowering supplement, is a yeast grown on rice and used as a dietary staple in many Asian countries.
    red yeast rice

    red yeast rice

    It is an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor and is the precursor for the statin drug, lovastatin (Mevacor).  It should be taken with caution, as it can produce similar side effects to the prescription statin drugs.

  7. Plant Sterols: Plant sterol esters have been found to be effective at reducing LDL cholesterol, if taken in doses of at least 1.3 gm per day.

If you are already taking a statin drug, or you and your physician feel it is important that you begin taking one, there are some things you can do to offset the potential side effects.

  1. Supplement with Co-enzyme Q10.  The recommended dose is 100-180 mg each day.
  2. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil to your diet each day.  Olive oil is high in Squalene, an antioxidant often decreased with statin drugs.
  3. Limit the amount of simple sugars in your diet and focus on complex starches.  Simple sugars can increase the body’s inflammatory responses.
  4. Take a Niacin supplement.  Niacin can enhance the effect of some of the statin drugs, which may allow you to take a lower dose.
  5. Avoid eating grapefruit or grapefruit products, which can interfere with appropriate absorption of the drug.

Statins have become one of the most prevalent drugs in our culture.  While statins have been proven effective at lowering “bad” cholesterol, that benefit comes with a price.  Before beginning a statin drug, work with your doctor or health care consultant to evaluate your diet and lifestyle and give yourself three to six months to make changes.  Drugs are not a substitute for proper diet, exercise and lifestyle and they come with a hefty price in cost and side effects.  If diet, exercise and lifestyle aren’t enough, statin drugs may be the best answer.  Only you and your doctor can make those decisions. If you choose to use statins, remember that supporting yourself while taking stains is crucial to maintaining your health.