You can’t lie to Heart Disease.
My husband Craig wasn’t feeling very good and was donating plasma to help with his tuition when the phlebotomist turned him away on 3 separate occasions because of high lipid levels in the plasma.
They didn’t say to him, “Hmm, maybe you should go get that checked. That’s a lot of fat in the plasma.” Craig took it upon himself to get it checked at the doctor.
His LDLs, the low density lipoproteins that are supposed to be under 100, were up to 148. This is not a good thing for him.
LDLs are the ‘bad fats’ that clog up arteries and lead to atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Craig’s doctor told him that day that he needed to start taking Lipitor to manage those fats.
The doctor didn’t say, “Hmm, your LDLs are really high. That can lead to atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Obviously we need to get the fat content in your blood down and the best way to do that is with food. Here are some resources for how to do that. You also need regular exercise, here are some resources for that. If your LDLs are still high after this many weeks, we can consider Lipitor. But you should know that any time you take a medication there are side effects and it’s in your best interest to fix this with diet and exercise now while you can still fix it because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and you don’t want to be one of that number.”
If Craig was anybody other than who he is, he would have come away from that doctor’s visit feeling like a victim, like something horrible was happening (and it is), but that it was out of his control. He would have gone down the path of medication and becoming his disease. He would have continued to put trashy food in his body and feel like there was nothing he could do about his condition which would inevitably decline. He would have told his friends that his doctor told him he had to be on lipitor and wasn’t that terrible? Part of getting older (shrug).
But Craig has been married to me for 25 years. And I’m weird. In a good way, but weird in that what I’m doing with my food trip is totally not mainstream. Basically I’m an omnivore with strong raw food tendencies, such that 80 to 90% of my intake is raw vegan goodness. My kids don’t know what a Happy Meal is. Craig has watched me get my wakeup call to change my relationship with food because of my anaphylactic allergies.
He sees me living it, hears me talking it, watches me eat, sleep, and breathe real live raw food. Sometimes he eats it. But obviously not always. So when he got the wakeup call at the doctor’s office about his LDL count he refused the lipitor and started doing more grocery shopping for himself. He’s walking 5 miles to the bus stop every day for exercise, and I’ve been seeing him making green smoothies and veggies more than his comfortable nut and seed mix.
He says he was grabbing convenience foods when he was at class and away from home. Pizzas, sugary muffins, fast food. You can lie to yourself and the people around you, but your body is not nearly as forgiving.
It will be interesting to see how fast he can get that number down and how his weight will change in the process because right now he has a good heft around his midsection, another risk factor for heart disease.
In the meantime, my entrepreneurial head is wondering how to incentivize doctors to educate and empower their patients (as if getting healthy wasn’t a good enough motivator). Surely there is a business model that can provide an alternative to enabling patients and our addictive bad eating habits.
Wendy Finn is the mother of 4 boys, owner of I.M. Spa, a Raw Food Enthusiast and educator, a world traveler in pursuit of superior massage education, a Master Massage Therapist of 20 plus years, a gardener, and a nursing student. She’s passionate about touching people and sharing health.