122 Rules by Deek Rhew

Friday, December 28, 2018

Cholesterol Scare

NOTE: I'm using my REAL numbers in this blog post. I've done hours and hours of research, and for whatever reason, no one seems to feel comfortable disclosing actual information. Needless to say, it has driven me completely apeshit to read an article that use vague words like "elevated," "moderate," and "high."

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).


Anyone that has experience with "elevated lipid levels" will know that the level of risk runs kinda all over the place. Generally speaking "high risk" is considered somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-240.

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.


  1. I have just been put on a cholesterol pill as the dr. said my levels are slightly high. When I asked the numbers I was honestly told "Nothing to worry about, just keep fighting the cancer which is obviously out of remission." Ok, the brilliant man also told me I was diabetic now but not to worry about the numbers. Funny as I watched my sugar intake and fat on my own. Cancer dr. says 'What cholesterol and what diabetes? They only rise the levels depending on your carcinoid hormone levels.' So, what can I know? I'm no doctor and am just a professional patient, but, it may be your loss of weight created a short-term shock to your system. Especially if it is inherited. Diabetes is inherited on all sides of my family. Keep us aware of what's going on. Erin and you will beat this challenge!

  2. At least your doctor gave you the numbers. Recently I've been given the information that I have cholesterol and diabetes but not to 'worry' myself as I only need to fight the cancer. My cancer dr. says 'What levels?' I have carcinoid cancer which loves to give false readings as it is an hormonal endocrine cancer. So, I have no levels and yet...I am watching sugar and fat intake now. Results, I'm gaining weight. Now my cancer likes to make persons gain weight (horrible side effect besides the sudden cardiac deaths I put up with...sigh,) so do I ignore the doctors? Meanwhile I'm on a cholesterol pill which we will see about. At least you have a guideline to try and battle. I have faith that you and Erin will win this latest challenge. Me? I'm going to be a pest for at least another 20 years. Keep us apprised.

    1. Thank you so much, Jeannie! How incredibly frustrating. Ugh!

      You are an inspiration. You fight and you keep your spirit up and you kick bootae. You both are in our prayers, my friends.

  3. Among that list: heart disease, breast cancer, thrombosis, liver and pancreas disease, arthritis, prostate problems, Alzheimer's disease, and many, many more!!