Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some Numbers Are Not My Friends

Seeing as how it's the day before Thanksgiving, I think I'll probably be regretting quite a bit by this time tomorrow. Thank you, Anne Taintor!

Today I went to my doctor for an annual checkup. I had my blood drawn last week, so we'd have something to talk about.

As my doctor was coming into the exam room, his first sentence included the phrase "talk about your cholesterol." Uh oh. This was not going to be good.

We've been keeping an eye on my cholesterol for a couple of years now. It seems that high cholesterol (both kinds -- HDL and LDL) run in my family. Thanks, mom! Anyway, nearly two years ago I was given the option of getting some exercise or start taking statins. I opted for the former, and now I've attained the blue-belt rank in kenpo karate. Three times a week I work my butt off for one solid hour and come out of class dripping with sweat but feeling pretty good about myself.

The first blood test after I'd been taking karate for several months showed that my triglyceride level had been cut in half. All right! My cholesterol had gone down, but just a little. My doctor said I could continue as I was and that we'd revisit the cholesterol again in a year.

Today was the one-year check point. And he'd come in the room talking about cholesterol. Crap. Not good.

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I believe that in April, my cholesterol number was somewhere around 140. That's not too good, but it's not horrible. Today, my number was somewhere between 170 and 175, I believe. This is not good.

I will be the first to admit that my diet, such as it is, is abysmal. Truly. I am the anti-Atkins: all carbs, all the time. I love all kinds of bread, and you probably have guessed that I love sweets, especially chocolate (good chocolate, that is; no crappy "chocolate candy" for this chickie). Meat is kind of "meh," as are vegetables. Fruit is great, but remembering that we have it and making a point of eating it is another thing. In my defense, I do eat oatmeal for lunch every day at work. Quick, cheap, and tasty -- instant oatmeal (with sugar, of course) works for me.

I guess I'm what you'd call an eat-to-live person, rather than a live-to-eat person.

So there I was, listening to my doctor giving me one compelling reason after another for starting to take statins (Zocor, specifically). Finally, I stopped him and asked, "Is there some reason you think that you have to convince me to take this medicine? Are you expecting me to argue with you?"

He looked nonplussed and replied that countless times every day he has patients who are adamant about not taking medicine of one kind or another. Hey, I believe him. I know someone (who shall remain nameless) who suffers (operative word) from obsessive-compulsive disorder -- big time. However, since she doesn't "like taking medicine," she's condemned herself to a life ruled by fear and desperation. Sad.

Back to me ... Since high cholesterol blocks the flow of blood, some of the fun end results can be heart attacks and strokes. What my doctor didn't know was that, when I was in college, I was on the pill (primarily to control the ferocious cramps that went along with every period; those are another story). Any-who, after I started taking the pill, I also started having headaches -- every day. You know how one of the possible side effects of taking birth control pills is the potential for stroke? Yeah, well, it turns out that I was one of those people for whom the pill is a big no-no.

So when I heard my doctor (who was probably still in high school during the whole "pill incident") say that untreated high cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and strokes, it was a matter of "nuff said," as far as I was concerned. Where do I sign up for them statins, doc?

If I'm brave enough, I'll go to Costco on Friday morning to get my prescription filled and start taking the Zocor Friday evening. The sooner, the better. The statins are a pill I can certainly swallow, you know?

So today's appointment had a happy ending ... or did it?

What I can't swallow and am fighting tooth and nail is the number I was given as being my current weight. They have got to be kidding. I mean, it was nice to hear that I'm actually 5' 5", rather than 5' 4-1/2", as I've always thought. Whole numbers just sound so much nicer. But I did have my back to the scale while the nurse measured and weighed me. Maybe she was lying. Maybe she was cross-eyed. Then again, maybe she was telling the truth. The truth hurts, sometimes. And now the bitter pill I'm having to swallow is that it would be a good thing for me to lose from 5 to 10 pounds. [Edited later to add: Actually, if I want to be honest with myself, I'd really be better off losing about 30 pounds. Time to face facts: I have a very small frame, and the gradual creep of poundage has reached an unacceptable level.] Ugh. Ugh! I wish I could convince myself that those extra pounds are all muscle, but I'm a terrible liar.

I feel so much better now that I've confessed. I'm no fatty-fatty-bo-batty, by any means, but I am a bit -- rounded? -- where I used to be fairly flat. I just wish it could be as easy to get that poundage number to come down as easily as it'll be to get those cholesterol numbers down. My physician assured me that that the Zocor will do an excellent job with those. Now I just need to be as excellent with my ... ugh ... diet.

Happy Thanksgiving. Pass that spoonful of pumpkin pie my way. Yeah. Just a spoonful.

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