midlife cholesterol challenge
I turned 58 last month. A year ago at my well visit to my doctor, my cholesterol for the first time surpassed the magic number of 199. My cholesterol had increased about 65 points over the previous 10 years and was looming from the chart at 237. Boo. [There is a lot of science in the numbers of "good" and "bad" cholesterol, but to illustrate my story, I'm using the total cholesterol number. Trust me, if I'd hit a homerun on good LDL, I'd tell ya!] My doctor began starting sentences with "You're getting to an age where..." Insert eye roll.
In her defense, she's about my age, she's in fabulous shape, and she also has cholesterol issues. She patiently explained that despite my vegetarian diet and my general good health, my genetics are working against me. My mom died from heart disease at the age of 53. I'd kinda hoped I'd dodged the crappy cardovasucular bullet, but alas, it appears I did not. I had a CT scan (some magic way they peer inside your arteries) and we determined that as of last January, I didn't have any plaque buildup. Good news.
Given that, plus knowing what I know, and generally wanting to postpone any life sentences that tie me to the pharmaceutical industry, I asked my doc what I could do bring down my number. "Eat oats and flax five times a week," she said. "Consider it done!" I thought.
Fast forward to this week. New year, new blood work, after a year of eating oats and flax for breakfast for probably 90% of the time. Hooray! I actually lowered my score by 6%. But... it's still over 199. It's 225. That's still a long way to go. My doctor started giving me that look again. I am an adult and don't have to take any meds if I don't want to, but I honor an evidence-based medical system and will take medications and vaccinations when it appears to be the best answer available.
But still. I am buoyed that I actually lowered my cholesterol by 6% in a year. I decided to take my case to Dr. Google to see what else I might do through lifestyle changes before I start going steady with statins to lower my cholesterol. Don't you know it, the answer (surprise!) is diet and exercise. Though I am at a healthy weight, I could also be healthy 10 pounds lighter. And, to be honest, my regular exercise regimen had lapsed a bit. Those of us lesbians in midlife have probably all heard that we need to do weight bearing exercise to maintain bone health. Cholesterol can improve with aerobic exercise, so... It's time to get going on this. Science says I should aim for 3.5 hours of cardio a week to improve my cholesterol numbers. Totally doable. I told my doc I'd bring my cholesterol down in 6 months. Can I? Well, I'm not sure about the numbers, but the weight loss and exercise is totally mine to do or not do.
Are you working on a health goal? I recently wrote Practical Change with Design Thinking: Lesbian Edition (click here to get it!). Creating an exercise plan or making adjustments to your diet are perfect projects to address with design thinking. Are you in? [It's it a lot easier to tackle change with objective accountability. Consider a free coaching session to craft a plan explore how coaching might help you get where you want to go.
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