Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Please do not stress the agent

Ok, I freely admit that I am probably going to go on my soapbox a tiny bit here, but please bear with it.

Have you had your cholesterol tested lately? An actual proper test, where you fast for twelve hours before the blood is drawn? If not, you should think of doing so--it could save your life. It has probably saved mine.

Recently, I went to see my endocrinologist, who is a lovely Irish lady that likes to yell at me to lose weight periodically. She mentioned that I hadn't had my cholesterol tested lately (as in, like the last year), and that it would be good to get some numbers on me. I dutifully took my bloodwork script, fasted the requisite amount of time, and then went to visit the friendly vampires (phlebotomists) at Quest Diagnostics. Then, this past Monday, I received a phone call.

Apparently, my triglycerides are "dangerously high". Dangerously high as in they are 548 mg/dL. So high, in fact, that I should probably have some form of heart disease. And I am only twenty-six years old.

Now, before you leap to conclusions, let me explain a few things. I have a metabolic disorder (no, it's not diabetes), which is why I see the endocrinologist in the first place; this disorder is partially responsible for the high triglycerides number. I am also overweight, although not so overweight that I should have such a high number (for the record, I am 5'3" and weigh 196.6lbs.); the extra weight is partially responsible for the triglycerides number. And I also have a family history of cholesterol abnormalities, which may also be contributing to this.

Regardless of their actual cause, however, the high triglycerides are a problem that need to be immediately treated. So I am now on Omacor, which are these giant pills that essentially contain pure omega-3 acids. I am seeing a nutritionist next week, who is going to help come up with a diet and exercise plan for me, since even losing a little bit of weight can help. And I am supposed to attempt to remain relatively unstressed--eventually, they may send me for other heart tests, just to make sure everything is still working fine.

Why, you ask, am I telling you all this?

Because it does not matter what age you are. It does not matter what physical condition you are in. It does not matter if you are a man or a woman or an alien from Krypton. You MUST get your cholesterol tested.

Yes, needles suck; bloodwork sucks.

But if you catch something bad, like my triglycerides, you can treat it early. You can get better. You can reduce the bad numbers and change your lifestyle, so that you remain healthy and happy. I want at least sixty more years to my life, and I'm damn well going to do all I can to ensure that I can get it.

Go to your doctor. Pay your stupid co-pay. And go get that bloodwork done, whether you're 14 or 94.

PS. I assume people are wondering how this will affect my career as an agent, and the simple answer is that it won't. I intend to change my lifestyle somewhat this summer, so that I get better sleep, eat a more healthy diet, and exercise as much as possible. I am doing this to preserve my health. I'm going to find a local intern, hopefully, who will help with some of the snail mail slush. Chris thinks I should take a vacation and rest a bit, and I may do that for a week or two during the summer. But the overall picture remains the same: I do my work, I get my job done, and I continue doing something that I like. =)

Now, go get your cholesterol tested. Go. Walk out that door. I can see you, you know. Put your shoes on, get into your car, and go see that doctor. It can save your life. And I firmly, firmly believe that it has helped save mine.


Kelly Swails said...

Good call, Jenny, about urging people to get their lipids checked. Also important is a C-reactive protein (CRP). A high CRP is indicative of chronic inflammation and has been linked to heart disease.

You know when you got your blood drawn, and they whisked the tube away to the mysterious "lab" and the mysterious "lab" spat out the numbers to your doctor? I'm a medical technologist; my job is to spit the numbers out to the doctors. Cool, huh?

Exercisin' said...

I have an elliptical trainer beside my computer. Every hour or so, or when my muse goes quiet, or I'm tempted to play computer games, I get up and do five minutes. Anyone can do five minutes of exercise. Sometimes I go for ten. At the end of the day, it all adds up. When you have a sedentary job, you have to find ways to make it less so.

Laura Kramarsky said...

I'd like to add something to this. I am minorly overweight (like about 20 pounds), but nothing that should be problematic. I also eat fairly well--too many sweets, but not a whole lot of fats. And yet, I have high cholesterol. A close friend of mine who is a marathon runner had a heart attack because of his cholesterol.

Please, people, don't think it can't happen to you!

But, as long as you're out there anyway, GET YOUR EYES CHECKED.

I can't believe how many people don't get this done on a regular basis. I'm not talking about an optometrist at your local 1-hour glasses shop, either. Go, at least once every few years, to see an opthamologist. I've got nothing against optometrists--they do a great job, and they're all most people need most of the time. But every five years (or more, if your doctor says so), take the time and pay the money to go see an opthamologist.

Jillian said...

Good for you, Jenny. Eating nutritiously is more powerful than most people realize. You WILL get those numbers under control. A vacation is a good idea, too. :)

I highly (highly!) recommend Will Clower's book, THE FAT FALLACY. It is potentially life-changing.

I had full bloodwork done after I'd been living/eating according to the lifestyle outlined in Will's book (it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change). My numbers were fabulous. Bad cholesterol was low, good cholesterol was high, triglicerides were low. Blood sugar and blood pressure normal.

If I could, I'd mail you a copy of the book myself. But methinks you've got easy enough access to books.

All the best to you! Here's to good health for the rest of your (long!) life!

Jillian said...

Oops...I also wanted to add that both of my parents have high cholesterol and my dad has always struggled with his triglicerides. And I'm over 40 and not having any problems. We really are what we eat (and how we move).


whitemouse said...

Eep! What a come-down from the line-dancing vampires. Take care and get better soon, dear.

Scott said...

Mine tested high last summer, so I've changed my diet. I'm almost due to be retested so we'll see how it goes. The last few weeks have been so busy, though, that it's been hard to eat well.

I didn't need a radical or unpleasant change. I started eating like I've wanted to for a while. Lots of fresh veggies, which I love, and I've cut way down on meat, often going several days with alternate sources of protein, like beans and tofu. When I stick with it, I enjoy it and feel good. I've also cut out soft drinks.

It's hard in a full house, though. I do most of the cooking, which means I usually end up cooking two separate meals. if the other one looks good, I can feel left out.

Or the big problem: snacks. I love salty snacks, and the kids always bring home bags of chips. If there's a bag on the counter or the coffee table, I can't resist it.

Changing diet doesn't have to be a miserable thing. At least not if you love veggies like I do, and like Asian and Mediterranean food.

I also bake my own bread, mostly because it's fun and because I've spent enough time in Europe that I have trouble with U.S. grocery store breads. Homemade bread is good for you and almost always fat free. Flour, water, yeast, and salt. That's all you need for a great loaf.

Writing in the dining room while working on bread is the one kind of multitasking that actually helps my writing. It puts me in a happy place, a writing mood.

Anyway, enough of my own soap box. Be good and get it under control, and enjoy good food while you do it. It really is possible.

Michelle Moran said...

I second that. Last year, just before my wedding, my father died suddenly of arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. He was a vegetarian and a swimmer, and he had uncontrolled cholesterol that led to a heart attack. The commercials aren't joking about it being a silent killer. Get those tests! Had he done so, they think he'd be here today and would have seen my wedding.

Di Francis said...

I've had a couple of blockages in odd places nowhere near my heart. Not particularly high anything, either. Family history of cholesterol issues though. I'll echo that CRP test. A good one. Now I take niacin, lipitor and aspirin, and have ridiculously low cholesterol. Hoping it gets me through. Like you, I was fairly young when I got the blockages.

I've just started the elliptical trainer. I really like it. For the first time ever I actually feel energized and good after excercising. I always wondered what that felt like.

Good luck with it all. Breathe. Breathe.


Patrick McNamara said...

Anyone over twenty should be seeing their doctor once every two years; over thirty, once a year (or when the doctor suggests). There are some maladies that are no problem if caught early enough but can cause damage to the body if left unchecked.

In men, high blood pressure puts strain on the organs, partucularly the heart, which leads to heart attacks and strokes but women's metabolisms are different. Fortunately, it can be brought under control.

I would recommend looking into Weight Watchers or the like. You can go for just six weeks if you like. It will help you learn how to eat properly. There are a few dietary traps in the modern diet.

Bump in the Night said...

Well, you're aware of it now and willing to act to change things. Good for you. Our bodies are all different, but you'll find what works to lower those numbers into the healthy range.

BTW, when I was in my mid-30's, my triglyceride count was 585. I was thin, athletic, and active, so I ate what I pleased. Figured I could. But my body doesn't process fats well. I changed my diet, and my triglyceride number dove. Now I'm 50, still active, fit, and thin. Triglyceride count this year was 74! Lowest reading yet. Cholesterol stays near the upper acceptable edge of 196, but that's without meds.

Hope you have similar success by being aware and adjusting your diet. Take advantage of medicines if needed. I would in a blink.

Best of luck.

Eileen said...

Good on you for getting things checked. I heard you'll be at Surrey International Writers C this year- I'm glad to hear it!

Chisem said...

Funny you should mentiont his. I'm a diabetic and I went on a strict diet with exercise three weeks ago. I've lost ten pounds, and I haven't had a shot of quick-acting insulin for two weeks. I still take a night time dose of slow acting insulin. To show you the difference, before the diet and exercise I took three doses of 15 units of quick acting three times a day. I took one night time dose of 70. Now I only take 50 of the slow acting. Went to the doc yesterday and he was well pleased.

So, keep up the good work; we need good agents to help us achieve our goals.

And God bless you in your efforts to remain healthy.

The Anti-Wife said...

I'm one of those unfortunate people who can't take cholesterol medications because they make my muscles weak. I changed my diet to a more sensible one, started walking, and started taking a teaspoon of cinnamon a day - on my whole grain cereal in the morning. My cholesterol went down 30 points in six months.

Cinnamon is not a complete substitute for statins, but combined with diet and exercise it really does help - and it tastes good!

December Quinn said...

An important message, Jenny. Can't wait to hear your numbers have dropped!

Demon Hunter said...

Blood Pressure should be checked as well, Jenny. I had my cholesterol checked for the first time a few years ago, and I go back every year. I started in my mid twenties having it tested, just due to my own heatlh conciousness. Average triglyceride should be 150; mine used to be 120, which is excellent. Just a few months ago, mine shot up to 210. My doctor asked had I been eating alot of one thing lately; she said it before I could. My favorite thing, shrimp, fried or broiled, didn't matter. I went from eating it once a month to once a week. Too much of a good thing is bad for your health, no matter WHAT it is. Now I take fish oil capsules. Great post! :*)

ipgirl said...

Good for you to speak up about this! You never know who might have high triglycerides. I am on low side in terms of weight but I still had a high result and have worked to get it down. No one should have to face heart disease when so much of it can be prevented.