WTH do those even mean? If we don't even know what the definition of "is" is, then how can we expect people to understand "moderate?" Anyway, I'm going against the grain and probably violating a HIPPA rule or something, but I'll actually say what I mean.
Also, it should be noted, I am NOT a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I'm just a guy with Google, some extra packets of fat in his blood, and a propensity for research. My goal is to share my research as I go along.
Knowledge is power.
Alright, with all of that said, I had a scare this holiday. I went in for my annual physical and blood workup in the middle of December. I expected great lab results and a high-five from my doctor for losing over 30 pounds (yes, 30!-Thank you Keto diet).
Unfortunately, the blood work didn't come back the way I expected. When Erin did her test, her cholesterol had dropped 20 points since she started Keto. I was hoping for something similar, but mine not only didn't drop, it increased by 149 points. My total cholesterol level as of 2 weeks ago was 349. To weed out a fluke test, I took it again yesterday.
As of this morning, my number is 375 (for my Brit friends, that 9.698 mmol/L).
To say that this number frightens me a bit, is an understatement.
Here are my total numbers as they stand right now:
Total Cholesterol = 375mg (9.698 mmol/L)
Triglycerides = 100mg (1.129 mmol/L)
HDL = 51mg (1.32886 mmol/L)
LDL = 291mg (7.525 mmol/L)
I can practically feel the creators of HIPPA snapping their pencils in half and drooling into their pocket protectors.
This fat in the blood propensity runs in my family (both my grandfather and father have it), and I have been on a statin since I was 20. Up until just recently, that's been enough to keep it "below borderline high," aka 200ish.
So the fact that my body is up to some kind of shenanigans, even after losing 30+ pounds, didn't come as a complete surprise. I've evidently got some overzealous little fat-generating liver gnomes who are putting in some serious overtime.
That's the big question, right? Well, it could be a whole slew of things. The big ones: diet, exercise, obesity, smoking, diabetes, liver disease, thyroid, stress. Well, for now, I've scratched obesity off the list. I'm down 30+ pounds and really only need to lose a few more to be right about where I want to be.
I don't smoke, and diabetes and liver problems came back as a big negatory in my blood work.
Exercise: I lift three days a week, and Erin and I walk. A lot. I could add some high intensity cardio to my morning routine, but since I haven't done early cardio in years, I don't think that a lack thereof is the cause of this sudden flareup.
Stress: My life is certainly not without it, but who's is?! While this little episode can make one's sphincter pucker, compared to what I was experiencing stress-wise 6 years ago, my life is a walk in the park. Now my body could be like, "Um no, I just can't roll with it the way I used to." That's certainly a possibility, but this reaction seems extreme. For now, I'm going to focus on other factors but keep this one in the back of my mind.
So, that leaves a couple of possibilities: diet and thyroid.
Let's start with diet.
I've made it no secret I'm on Keto and have been very successful at it. The basis of the diet is low carb, moderate protein, and high fat. The principal behind is it is your body becomes "fat adapted." Meaning, instead of using carbs for fuel, it burns fat. Once it runs out of fat in your diet, it looks for other sources in your body.
But the concept of Keto flies directly in the face of everything I've ever known about a cholesterol conscious diet. The latter is all about low fat. To add more confusion to the whole mix, when I was first diagnosed with "elevated lipids," my doctor told me that eating cholesterol doesn't cause high cholesterol.
I've read this online in many many other times, but still, it's a difficult fact to ignore.
To argue with myself about this, I also need to point out that my diet before Keto sucked. Fried foods, carbs, so on and so on. Unfortunately, I didn't track my food before, so I don't have anything to compare it to. But my guess is that overall my fat, especially my cholesterol and saturated fat intakes, are way down now compared to the fried food life before.
Another possibility is thyroid.
There are a lot of articles I've read that there is a direct link between hypothyroidism and cholesterol levels. I don't really have many of the other symptoms of a thyroid problem, but it certainly isn't off the table.
Quick Weight Loss
The last possibility (thus far) is rapid weight loss. In someone who doesn't process cholesterol out of their blood very quickly, rapid weight loss can cause "elevated levels." (Damned vague articles. Give me real numbers!!!)
The concept behind it is that when your body breaks down fat cells, that fat gets dumped into your bloodstream. Losing 1 pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories. If you lose, say two pounds, like I did between my two cholesterol tests, that's my body dumping 7000 calories of triglycerides and fat into my bloodstream. Yowza!
Unlike other diet plans, Keto is focused on fat. I've lost a lot of weight before, but when I did it, my body stripped itself of muscle as well as fat. So, it had a nice mixture of the two to work with. But on Keto, my muscle has mostly been left alone.
So, that's where things stand right now. Erin and I are drawing up battle plans, and I'm doing research, which I will share with y'all as I find it. We will be talking to the doc when she gets back from her vacation at the beginning of the new year, so we'll see what she says.
Until then, adventure on!
Ready to see what happens next?
Check out Cholesterol Scare Part 2: Not as Scary as We Thought?
And the Two Month Follow-Up.