Sunday, 30 July 2017

July 2017 - the Cholesterol story

Well here's a story, my Cholesterol. 

Back in late 2011 I had one of the (then) new fangled NHS healthchecks. Your GP invites you to get some blood tests to check for various things but chiefly to assess your risk of getting type 2 diabetes and to check your Cholesterol - I'm sure it is much more comprehensive than that, but still. You go in for an appointment, you get asked lots of questions, get weighed, blood pressure etc. Generally I came out as pretty healthy, the one area of concern was my level of LDL (or 'bad') Cholesterol. At that point it was 6.61 mmol/L, which whilst not catastrophic was a bit higher than ideal. My 'Total cholesterol:HDL ratio' was 4.

I was not overweight, lived a pretty good lifestyle (non-smoker, low drinker) and eat a reasonable diet - but having a high Cholesterol irked me a bit. So after careful consideration, I ignored it for a while (I used to do that a lot.....). In fact, what I did do, is give up butter and instead started using soya spread. It was no big deal and tasted just fine to me.

But then in early 2013, I was diagnosed with having a Pituitary tumour and I had many blood tests....and the test in April 2013 showed my Cholesterol had now gone up to 7.34 mmol/L What! I couldn't believe it, I gave up butter and my LDL Cholesterol went up! However, this time I could blame something, my pituitary tumour. To be honest the tumour was felt to be the culprit for many things.....a headache, feeling tired, feeling dizzy, lost my keys - answer was simple, bloody pituitary tumour. Some of the issues were probably linked to the tumour, but it became fair game really, blame it on the tumour.

I do believe that Cholesterol or lipid balance can be affected by the Pituitary gland. Whether mine was causing the issue I don't know. But by now I was pretty miffed, I gave something up that I really quite liked, and it made it worse. 

So this time I had a chat to my wife and we decided that a diet change would need to happen. Following my recovery from the tumour and getting my hormones back in balance I begun to do a lot more walking and started pilates classes. So exercising more regularly, tick! I started to eat almonds most days, which are supposed to be a good source of fat. My LDL Cholesterol was measured a few more times and still hovered around the 6.5 mark, my Total cholesterol:HDL ratio creeping up to 4.8. Stubbornly refusing to go the right way.

At my second NHS healthcheck back in February 2017 my Cholesterol was still giving the GP cause for concern, so that was it, full blown war.

As I said before, my diet was never bad, but there is always room for improvement, so Deb started cooking meals with a lot more vegetables, what few ready meals we had have been cut right out. I now love eating kale, broccoli, courgettes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes. I have for many years had 'Coffee Mate' in my coffee rather than milk, it turns out that this is really high in fat, much worse than semi skimmed milk. So I now have semi-skimmed milk in my coffee. I have cereals for breakfast, so now instead of semi skimmed milk I have either Oat Milk or Almond Milk.....I really like the taste of both on cereal (horrible in coffee though). So I now have very little milk. Then I noticed that over the last few months my weight had crept down from just over 70kg to around just over 68kg.

The GP had asked for another Cholesterol test to be done 4 months after the NHS healthcheck to see how I was going and if a change of diet could do anything. Miracle of miracles, my Cholesterol is down to 5.66, my HDL is 1.43 and my ratio is back at 4. Hurrah!

Looking at my electronic medical record on EMIS, which only goes back to 2006, my LDL was 5.97 and since then consistently higher, so this is the first time in 11 years it has been lower. My Calculated 'LDL cholesterol level' is 3.88 which is still higher than the 3 mmol/L level it is 'supposed' to be.

So what to make of all this. Can I do what I always used to do and say "my Pituitary gland was to blame", well no, I don't think so. I think that a sustained period of more exercise and a better diet and cutting down milk consumption, butter and cutting out Coffee Mate completely has finally made the difference.

I think the point I am trying to make, is partly a smug one but also partly trying to show just how hard it can be to do something about Cholesterol. Perhaps genetically I am predisposed to a higher level? My wife eats much the same diet as I do, her HDL ratio is 2 and her various Cholesterol levels were said to be "perfect" by the GP.

Two things are for sure, I want to limit my exposure to higher stroke and heart attack risk and I don't want to do that by taking statins. I'm not out of the woods yet, because I have to keep all this up and my bloods have to show that progress, but I am very pleased with the results....I've even lost a couple of KG's into the bargain, which was never the plan.

So not exactly a pituitary blog as such, who knows, maybe it can shoulder the blame just a little :-)

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