Monday, August 24, 2009

Good Cholesterol?

I have been struggling with an intestinal bug, gastritis, I think, contracted while on a trip to Boston last weekend. I suffered for several days and finally sought help from Dr. Fuhrman, who suggested I go in to get a stool culture, which I did this morning.

The bug should take care of itself in a few days, but while in the doctor's office I, on the spur of the moment decided to have a blood lipid profile and a vitamin D test done. The office was able to do the lipid profile while I waited, so I carried home the results.

This is the first lipid profile I have had in a couple of years. Since my eating style, exercise program and other lifestyle factors are excellent, my approach has been to avoid tests under the theory that I am doing everything I can to stay healthy. The tests add nothing. Nevertheless, my curiosity got the best of me and the test was done. Here are the before and after results, i.e., before beginning my current eating program two years ago. I did have a total cholesterol done several weeks after starting the eating program, but this didn't include the breakdown of cholesterol into its components.

Total Cholesterol Before (220) After (154)
HDL Before (48) After (40)
LDL Before (149) After (92)
Triglycerides Before (116) After (107)

I was pleased with these results because they provide evidence of the benefits of my eating style....30% drop in total cholesterol and 38% drop in LDL. But, my good cholesterol also dropped by 17%. I went back to one of Dr. McDougall's newsletters on cholesterol to refresh my memory. My memory was correct, Dr. McDougall says that HDL is not a relevant indicator in heart health. He says, "When total cholesterol is lowered, all fractions of cholesterol are reduced, including HDL-cholesterol."

Studies have apparently shown that when subjects reduce their total cholesterol, HDL drops too and according to Dr. McDougall, that is okay. At the end of my visit my doctor said, "Your numbers look great, but your HDL maybe should be a bit higher." Dr. McDougall claims that most doctors are confused about the HDL, good cholesterol, issue sometimes to the point of suggesting to patients that they eat more meat to get their HDL up.

Total cholesterol is the meaningful number and I am very pleased that mine has dropped to a healthy level.

1 comment:

alpha said...

Thank you so much for sharing the information. HDL cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol, appears to scour the walls of blood vessels, cleaning out excess cholesterol. It then carries that excess cholesterol -- which otherwise might have been used to make the "plaques" that cause coronary artery disease -- back to the liver for processing. So when we measure a person's HDL cholesterol level, we seem to be measuring how vigorously his or her blood vessels are being "scrubbed" free of cholesterol.