Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October 20, 2010 - Back to the Cardiologist

It’s been 11 months since I left the center and just as long being employed with the state of California doing what I’ve been doing for the last 25 years – sitting at a desk writing code. Knowing I needed to make not only dietary changes, I’ve incorporated some physical activity into my daily routine to keep the blood flowing. I’ve read many books advocating both so it seems worthwhile to stay active, though if I had to choose between diet and physical activity, I’d choose diet hands down. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose - one compliments the other for improved health.
I wake at 4:30 am nearly every weekday, drink a big glass of water and I’m at the gym by 5:10. I pack everything I need for the day the night before so it’s a simple matter of load and go. There are showers at work, so I leave straight for the office when I finish at the gym at 6:00 am, missing all the traffic, eating overnight-soaked oatmeal or buckwheat with raisins and cinnamon. I’m at my desk at 7:20.
My routine at the gym includes time on the elliptical trainer which I program for interval training so my heart can work at 140 bpm and then drop to 120 bpm for eight repetitions over 35 minutes. I always cool down until my heart rate is 108 beats per minute before I start a short weight training circuit.
I usually wear a heart rate monitor when I train at the gym for two reasons: 1) I can run hands-free on the machines and the machines will pick up the signal from the chest monitor and display the bpm’s on the screen, and 2) I can measure at what rate my heart starts skipping beats or double beats. This helps me stay just under that threshold, which, the last time I tested myself 4 months ago was at 150 bpm after about 10 minutes. Fortunately, there is no discomfort when this happens, but I think it would be dangerous working at this level for too long so I don’t do it. Maybe I’ll test myself again in a month or two.
At work, I walk on my lunch break for two miles. If I have time, I’ll do it twice.
I tried to hike every weekend over the spring and summer, which was fantastic. We have a medium difficulty trail that provides a nice nine mile round trip which just invigorates the body. My heart rate rarely got over 120 bpm, but a few hours of that really makes you feel good for days afterward. Hiking is the best!

Eleven months of eating vegan and steady training has reaped some benefits. My resting heart rate is 48, my blood pressure is currently 125/74, and my weight stays the same at around 134 when I weigh myself in the morning.

On 05/26/2010, I went in for blood work. These are the results:
Total cholesterol : 173
Triglycerides: 157
VLDL Cholesterol (calculated): 31
LDL Cholesterol (calculated):110
HDL Cholesterol: 32
Cholsterol/HDL ratio: 5.44 (average risk)
LDL/HDL ratio: 3.44 (average risk)
High sensitivity CRP: <0.2 (tough to beat that)

Thinking about what I was eating, I was taking in much too much sugar, mostly fruits like bananas, but even some crystallized ginger. On my no fat diet, there is no fat to slow down the sugar spikes, so it’s no wonder the numbers are off.
Changes were in order. My doctor suggested I take a low dose statin, to which I said no, though I’m sure it would force the numbers down. After some talk, I did agree to a baby aspirin and fish oil. So I take two krill capsules daily. He suggests more. And every now and then I’ll take in some avocado. Still no animal and no added oils other than the omega 3 krill capsules. I cut way back on fruit, especially bananas, and dropped the crystallized ginger.

Then on 09/29/10 I went in for an echocardiogram stress test. That’s as close as I’m willing to go to an angiogram to evaluate the condition of my heart. I’ll get to the test in a moment, but first I’ll disclose the results of the blood work done a couple of days prior.

Total Cholesterol: 174
Triglycerides: 155
VLDL Cholesterol (calculated): 31
LDL Cholesterol (calculated):102
HDL Cholesterol: 41
Cholesterol/HDL ratio: 4.2 (Below average risk)
LDL/HDL ratio: 2.49 (average risk)
High sensitivity CRP: <0.2 (not taken)

So the reduction of the fruit, elimination of the sugary crystallized ginger and the introduction of the krill oil did have an effect. It dropped my LDL and raised my HDL, just like my doctor said it would. I’ll test again in six months and see what happens.
In the meantime, it looks like my total cholesterol is hovering at around 173, and my “industry calculated” risk is dropping. I could always make a few more changes in my diet choices.

Back to the stress test. Fully wired, I walked on a treadmill that gained in elevation every two minutes or so for a total of 11 minutes. Then I immediately laid down on my left side so the assistant could perform an ultrasound of my heart to measure throughput, I am assuming. Once she finished, I sat up, the doctor smiled, shook my hand and said, “Good job!”. That’s it. Nothing else.
I called a couple of days later and asked for results, and I was told, ”The doctor said everything was normal”. Ok, I can live with that.

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