Thursday, February 19, 2009

On the medical front . . .

I had some follow-up blood work done in early January and spoke with my "vitality and longevity" doctor about the results.

Good news: my cholesterol numbers are great. The standard LDL/HDL ratio put me at half the normal risk for cardiac disease--about an eighth of what it was last August.

The number of cholesterol-carrying molecules is down to almost half of what it was last August. But last August I was at very nearly double what my doctor told me was high acceptable. . . . So though I'm close to being at the high acceptable range, I'm not "even" quite there. Wonderful progress, but he wants the number of molecules per deciliter of blood reduced still further.

Most worrying: my fasting blood sugar level has risen even higher than it was (and it was already at the upper edge of acceptable). . . . I'm not sure if my numbers (blood glucose and HgbA1c--glycosylated hemoglobin) place me in the range of pre-diabetic, but they are certainly not optimal.

But my doctor told me he believes part of the reason my blood sugar is off is because of some of the things he is having me take for my cholesterol: specifically, the large quantity of Niacin and, if I recall accurately, Vitamin D as well.

So to drive my cholesterol down even further, he has upped my dose of Simvastatin to 30mg a day (50% more than I was taking), and he's pushing me to cut back on my carbs even more.

I was pleased, two weeks ago, to read in our local paper what Dr. Andrew Weil had to say about cholesterol. He confirmed much of what my "vitality and longevity" doctor was saying about the size and number of cholestorol-carrying particles:
You may not know that LDL ("bad") cholesterol comes in two main forms -- small, dense particles and large, fluffy ones. [Stephen R.] Devries[, director of the Integrative Program for Heart Disease Prevention at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Cholesterol,] explains that the small [cholesterol particles] are the dangerous ones: Because of their size, they're much more likely to get stuck in coronary arteries while the big, fluffy ones roll on through. The size of your LDL particles has a strong genetic basis.
This all sounds right. It accords with what my "vitality and longevity" doctor was telling me (though it is totally outside the knowledge of my regular, insurance-covered doctor).

However, Weil goes on to say,
If your LDL particles are small, Devries says you can change their size and number with simple lifestyle changes including weight control, a low-glycemic-index diet (, fish oil supplements and regular exercise.
I find that harder to believe . . . primarily because, while the number of particles in my blood has decreased dramatically under the regimen my doctor has given me--a regimen that, I would say, is not "simple" and includes far more than mere "lifestyle changes" (i.e., it includes statins)--the size of my cholesterol particles has hardly budged. And I have made the lifestyle changes . . . plus taken the additional steps. . . .

To top it all off, I get reports like this one I just read this morning (from Dr. Russell Blaylock's The Blaylock Wellness Report:
Statins Found to Increase Cancer Risk

A new 41,000-patient study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology
found that taking statins to lower LDL-cholesterol was associated with a significant increase in cancer risk. Researchers were not certain if the increase was due to the dramatic lowering of the LDL-cholesterol or to taking statins.

My studies indicate both may be at fault. We know that statins significantly impair the immune system and that immune surveillance, a system whereby the body’s immune system continuously scans the body for newly appearing nests of cancer cells, is also impaired.

And my mom didn't die at 55 from heart disease; she died from cancer. Of course, her brother died at a relatively young age (not as young as she was, but still relatively young) from heart disease. But she didn't. And my dad is still alive. And heart disease hardly looks as if it's going to be the problem that "does him in."

. . . So I begin to wonder: What should I do?

Kind of the "same old" questions I keep running into with respect to theology: Whom does one believe? Everyone seems to focus on a different issue. . . .

Oh. And then this last note that our paper printed last week:
Vitamins don't prevent disease, new study says

. . . The eight-year study of 161,808 postmenopausal women echoes recent disappointing vitamin studies in men.

Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamins to boost their health. Research has focused on cancer and heart disease in particular because of evidence that diets full of vitamin-rich foods might protect against those illnesses. But that evidence doesn't necessarily mean pills are a good substitute. . . .

The study appeared in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine. Co-author Dr. JoAnn Manson said that despite the disappointing results, the research doesn't mean multivitamins are useless. The data is observational, not the most rigorous scientific research. And it's not clear if taking vitamins might help prevent cancers that take years to develop, said Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard's Brigham & Women's Hospital.
You can find a few more scraps of data on the subject in the original article.
blog comments powered by Disqus