My father commuted from Connecticut on the train every day to NYC till he was in his mid-seventies. On weekends he transformed the wily brook on our property into a tamed stream and built a bridge; he sowed and reaped vegetables and fruits; he mowed two acres; he planted, then transplanted, a nursery of evergreens. He never lacked exercise.
Dad would slather mayonnaise on his sandwiches and layer each piece of toast or muffin with several swipes of margarine before adding the jelly. Every evening after dinner he would enjoy a frozen yogurt.
After their move to Florida in their eighties, Dad's new doctor suggested a cholesterol test. The total reading was around 350 - off the charts.
The doctor prescribed a cholesterol-lowering statin pill. Dad began the treatment but within a short time resembled Big Bird. His liver was malfunctioning. The doctor prescribed another statin and another. Dad couldn't tolerate any of them, and there weren't many to choose from back then. Both he and the doc gave up and Dad went back to his routine - a bowl of cereal for breakfast with toast (covered in margarine) and banana, a sandwich for lunch (with mayonnaise), and whatever Healthy Choice frozen dinner my mother stuck in the microwave, followed by frozen yogurt.
He lived to be 95.
I am my father's daughter. My body is on overdrive producing cholesterol.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in our blood. The body needs cholesterol to function. It occurs naturally in every cell of the body.
HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) or "good" cholesterol is one of five major groups which enable fats to be carried in the blood stream. Other lipoproteins which enable fats to be carried include LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol). In healthy adults, approximately 30% of cholesterol in the blood is carried by HDL.
LDL's function lies in its use in cell membranes, as well as the making of hormones and Vitamin D. However, since our cells take only what they need, excess levels of LDL can enter blood vessel walls and build up under the lining. Deposits are called plaques. The "good" cholesterol or HDL acts as a scavenger, picking up excess LDL "bad" cholesterol and delivering it to the liver, where it's broken down. If there is too much excess, deposits can clog arteries, restricting blood flow (hardening of the arteries). A blood clot may eventually result in a heart attack or stroke.
I have always lived a healthy lifestyle. I've played tennis for forty years. I go to the fitness center and use cardio machines, free weights, and long-and-short muscle machines twice a week. As a New Englander I eat fish regularly - sometimes more than three times a week. I enjoy fruits and I mix a fiber drink every night. I am a lifetime Weight Watcher and panic when I'm five pounds overweight. Sometimes I'm so sick of salads for lunch that I rebel and eat a wrap.
My HDL "good" cholesterol is very good. Although it fluctuates, at this moment my LDL "bad" cholesterol is very bad.
I had no discipline while the grandchildren visited. I ate Easter candy, frozen yogurt (with hot fudge), cheeses, pastas, and cake. I ate nuts and homemade breads and chocolate chip waffles with syrup.
After many trials, the doctor found a statin I could tolerate without resembling my father's sunflower yellow. It will have to suffice while I revert to my healthy diet.
The doctor told me there's a monthly shot that's been developed which he's testing on a few patients. It costs $800/shot. Seriously??
Thanks, Dad, for the inheritance. I'll take my chances with your longevity any day.
- Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
- Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.