News and Tribune

April 12, 2013

NASH: Taking some important steps

By MATTHEW NASH
Local columnist

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I’m not the kind of person that blames my parents for the things that have gone on in my adult life. I don’t think they did anything wrong in the way they raised me and I think that I have benefited from their guidance. As I reflect on all of the things I inherited from my parents, there is only one thing that I am disappointed with: My cholesterol level. 

Cholesterol is made in the liver and also obtained in the things we eat. Many things can contribute to high cholesterol levels, including dietary habits and your weight. Since my mom and dad no longer have much say in the foods I consume, I guess I can’t lay it all at their feet. But according to the experts I have discussed this with, genetics does play a role in cholesterol levels, so mom and dad are not totally off the hook.

The reason that it is even an issue at this time is because of a recent health assessment at my work.  As part of a wellness plan, over the last couple of years the company that I work for has done a free health screening. The idea is if we are aware of problems, we can take steps to decrease some of the risks and eventually lower the cost of health care over the long term.

I am not going to get into the specific results of the test that was administered, I would hate to violate my own HIPPA rights. Let’s just say the results could have been better. Actually some of the results didn’t even register on the machine that was used because of some of the levels in my blood.  Since it was just a finger prick test, it was recommended I visit a medical professional and have a complete blood panel done so I can get a better understanding of the extent of my problems.

After much prodding by a well-meaning coworker who was only worried about my health, I finally made an appointment to have my blood work redone and waited patiently for the lab results to come back. I was confident I could will  my numbers to be lower than the initial results. I also was under the impression my health care provider would just recommend that I try to eat a little better and try to exercise a little more. I thought for sure that when I returned for the follow up that I would be let off with just a “warning.”  I was mistaken.

The comprehensive results presented to me painted a rather bleak picture of my future. While it was pointed out that I was in generally good health, my blood pressure was considered “pretty good” and my blood sugar level was considered normal, I was still informed that without some changes in my diet and lifestyle, I could be in some trouble in the very near future.

Without making adjustments to my current standard of living I could be looking at heart disease or possibly Type 2 diabetes. It was recommended I start taking a “statin,” a class of drug that lowers cholesterol. I was given some samples for the first month to see how I respond before I am prescribed something permanently. 

It was also  suggested that I limit the amount of red meat in my diet, and to stay away from all fast food, white bread and potatoes. I have started taking my lunch to work to keep from eating junk food since it was easy to grab a bag of chips and a soda when I got hungry.  

I volunteered to limit the number of soft drinks that I consumed and it was suggested that I eliminate them all together.  Apparently the commercials of the seventies were embellished and Coke does not “add life.”  I have been keeping a water bottle close so that I can up my water intake.

Leaving the doctor’s office that day, I knew that I would have to change the way I had been living soon, or risk my life changing drastically forever. I decided  I would try to walk a little bit every day and a few miles a couple times a week. So far I have done a pretty good job of keeping a consistent routine.

Next month I will celebrate my first wedding anniversary and I have gained some weight in the past twelve months. Right now my short-term goal is to get back to the weight I was on my wedding day — that would be a good first step. My next goal is to get back into a couple pairs of work pants and some jeans that I have “outgrown” over the last few years.

I am smart enough to know I cannot eliminate every risk factor that I face, but I can work to control their effects. I have already taken a few steps to start on a road to improvement and I hope to continue with the progress I have made.  I know that changing my life may be hard in the short term, but the long-term benefits will be worth it.   

 

Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@gmail.com