Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cholesterol Numbers

Today's semiannual talk with the doctor about cholesterol numbers was encouraging: 154 for total cholesterol (well within the healthy range), 33 for HDL cholesterol (should be >39), and 174 for triglycerides (should be below 150).  All other numbers are in the proper range.  My blood pressure was 124/78.  The best news of all is that the rather impressive improvement in total cholesterol has been since I changed my diet to one that emphasizes:

1. Eggs, sausage, and bacon for breakfast, with the occasional slice of toast, and rarely, pancakes or cereal.

2. Steak or broiled chicken, usually rice, and vegetables for dinner.

3. Ditto for lunch (since my lunch is usually leftovers from the previous night's dinner).

The claims in the movie Fathead seem confirmed: dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol are unrelated.

UPDATE: My doctor had mentioned that my total cholesterol numbers seemed to be seasonally variable.  As a commenter pointed out, there is a connection between cholesterol and sunlight.  From the National Library of Medicine:
We investigated the relationship between geography and incidence of coronary heart disease, looking at deficiency of sunlight and thus of vitamin D as a factor that might influence susceptibility and thus disease incidence. Sunlight deficiency could increase blood cholesterol by allowing squalene metabolism to progress to cholesterol synthesis rather than to vitamin D synthesis as would occur with greater amounts of sunlight exposure, and the increased concentration of blood cholesterol during the winter months, confirmed in this study, may well be due to reduced sunlight exposure. We show evidence that outdoor activity (gardening) is associated with a lower concentration of blood cholesterol in the summer but not in the winter. We suggest that the geographical variation of coronary heart disease is not specific, but is seen in other diseases and sunlight influences susceptibility to a number of chronic diseases, of which coronary heart disease is one.


  1. Hi Clayton: I have issues with BP and Cholesterol, and just last month I got my second stent. I'm concerned about my cholesterol, since it doesn't decrease with medication. I'm now on 40mg of Crestor, and I've noticed that I now have lower back pains, especially after sitting for a few minutes. A post at NIH says this might be a side effect of Crestor (and Zocor). I'm very concerned. I feel like I may need a stroller pretty soon.

    I really don't like going against my doctor's advice, but I'm considering having 1 egg scrambled in olive oil every morning, with turkey or chicken. I usually have chicken or turkey in a large salad at dinner. Lunch is fish and veggies.

    So I guess I'm just adding an egg. Do you think that will help?

  2. The things I like to cite to hopefully get people thinking about this early example of medical research malpractice is that the liver synthesizes cholesterol and when your skin is exposed to sunlight (with the right type of UV of course) it is cleaved into Vitamin D.

    There are some who due to genetic defect are sensitive to dietary cholesterol, but otherwise it doesn't seem to be an issue.

    Heck, you're a bit older than me and while probably not as biology and medicine focused it's likely you remember how often and how much the Conventional Wisdom has changed (latest is from the unreliable Lancet, a meta-analysis that says high levels of HDL seem to correlate with health, not cause it), and probably wonder like many of us if that "wisdom" has pushed many in this nation into weight gain and diabetes.

  3. HGA: My doctor has noticed that there is a seasonal pattern to my total cholesterol, with declines in summer. The sunlight/cholesterol/vitamin D interaction might explain that.

    ASDF: I am certainly not going to give anyone with serious health risks any recommendations. I know that statins have some side effects, and the muscle pain problem that you are describing is one of them. it's time to get back to the doctor to discuss this.

    I was having blood pressure problems a couple of years ago, enough that the doctor was talking about having me start on blood pressure medication. I solved that problem (and probably did my cholesterol numbers some good) by increasing my exercise. I started treadmilling an hour 5-6 days a week.

  4. Vitamin D status goes a long way in explaining why blacks in northern cities have so much higher risk of heart disease than other groups. They just can't make as much vitamin D with the available sunlight.

    You might try supplementing vitamin D this winter and see what it does to your cholesterol levels.

  5. I'm glad you are getting your cholesterol and blood pressure under control!

    My dad had a stroke a few years ago, and it was attributed to high blood pressure. (My dad's mother also had high blood pressure problems, so it's a family thing...) Ironically, though, my concern has been low blood pressure; it hasn't been so much of a concern, however, that I've yet to talk to a doctor about.

    On the other hand, in the past, I've taken a combination of ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and caffeine, to treat migraines--or even just rather bad headaches. After a while, though, I noticed that my blood pressure was going up, so I cut back on the caffeine, and it gradually went back down.

    I have since reflected on that, and wondered if the Mountain Dews that my Dad liked so much, eventually led to his stroke...but of course, unless we can clone my dad, and do double-blind studies on those clones concerning the effects of caffeine on this one individual's blood pressure, we'll never know for certain! :-)