Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The Heart of the Matter
Its been over 20 years that I've been diagnosed with Familial hypercholesterolemia. I got this wonderful disease from my mothers side of the family. One uncle died at 39, one at 49 and mom has had 2 heart attacks and an angioplasty before the age of 55. The highest my cholesterol has gone has been 256. What's also wonderful about my family history is that we have elevated levels of lipoprotein A which increases our risk for plaque build up in our vessels as well as blood clots. Unfortunately, their is no treatment for elevated lipoprotein A levels so you are either put on strict dietary control with exercise or put on medication.
Over the past 5 years I have done everything in my power to not be put on medication. The Statin medication for high cholesterol can cause severe muscle pain especially in endurance athletes and unless my cardiologist tells me I have no other choice I will do my best to not go on the pills.
3 yrs ago I underwent a stress test to see whether or not I was in immediate danger or heart issues. i also underwent a calcium ion CT scan to check for plaque build up in my vessels. Both tests came back great and along with my blood work my cardiologist gave me a 3 year bye on pills.
Last week I went to see my Cardiologist, Dr. Sydney Alexander at the Lahey in Burlington, he again told me that he expected to put me on pills by the end of my visit. My blood work showed:
All other blood work including CBC and electrolytes, thyroid, etc.. were within normal limits.
My examination was normal, my weight was lower this visit than last and my body fat percentage dropped to 14.3%. Again, Dr. Alexander told me that since I am an endurance athlete and the risks associated with taking the Statins outweighed the literature to support me going on it right now isn't good, I got yet another bye for 3 years. He even told me that there was no literature to support me taking a baby aspirin a day. Good for me.
However, even with this good news with my family history and my still borderline blood results I get a bit nervous that I may still be building plaque and could have an early heart attack based on my family history.
Whats even more sad is that all 4 children of mine carry an elevated lipoprotein A level as well as being diagnosed with high cholesterol at the age of 3. They are also followed by a cardiologist in Boston who has been monitoring them since that age and with dietary changes ( except for one child) they are doing great and only need to be seen every 3-5 years.
Its so hard to know that as a parent I passed on this potential deadly disease that if you don't watch what you eat, if you don't exerise and even if you do all the right things in life, you may still be subjected to having a heart attack. Its very scary. That being said, I don't live by this disease and I do everything in my power to fight it everyday and to educate my kids, family and friends. Life is too short to not do something that you may have control over. I want to be around for many years and I want my kids to be around much longer than myself.
To my friends and family, do what you can to be healthy, enjoy your treats but get good exercise, eat well, get your yearly physicals and blood work so you know both your inner body and outer body are doing well and most importantly educate your children about health. We all want to live a long time.