I have to admit that I am surprised by very little these days. But my recent physical at Mayo Clinic left me stunned. My coronary calcium test showed a buildup of calcium in my left coronary artery, indicating that I am 98% more likely than women my age to experience a heart attack or stroke in the future. While I have been presenting moderately high cholesterol levels for the last few years, my HDL, or “good”, cholesterol levels are high enough to mitigate the risk of a serious condition. Or so I thought. Specifically the last four years my LDL has been 103, 104, 106, and 108. I exercise, follow mainly a Mediterranean diet and am reasonably lean. So, what are my options?
I could go on cholesterol reducing medications called statins, but I’ve decided to see if a change in lifestyle and eating habits will move the needle in the right direction. Striving for balance in my life has been an ongoing issue. What is clear to me, is that the balance I thought I was achieving is actually setting me on a dangerous trajectory. Therefore, I have decided to follow a plant-based diet for three months, at which point I will take another cholesterol test to ascertain whether diet alone lowers my LDL levels. No meat, no dairy, no fried food (and many may say “no fun”). My goal is to have my LDL under 80, but I remain hopeful that I can achieve even better results.
This could actually be an opportune moment in my life. As my blog progresses, I have been asked by many where I plan to take my writing. Ever since my mother was fighting leukemia I have had an interest in diet, and specifically the role that diet can play in our health. When she was home from the hospital after her chemotherapy rounds, I found myself pouring over cookbooks related to cooking for cancer patients. Even for a classically trained chef, it wasn’t easy. While we were given a road map for the treatments that just about killed her immune system, there was little information on how to help her at home through nutrition or mental health.
Nutrition should be just that: nutritious. For what are we doing if not sustaining our bodies and our health. I have to think that much can be accomplished by the food we intake rather than just by medication, or by using food in conjunction with medication. To just take a pill and think that all will be better does not sit quite right. Plus, I am a control freak. So, yes, I want to see if I can be in control of this. And I am curious as to where this journey will take me.
I will continue to write about culinary events and restaurants in the Valley and on my various travels. I hope to be transparent about my restrictions, and I don’t feel it will hold me back. It may even be interesting to see where I can find some tasty dishes, and to see if/when a restaurant can creatively accommodate me on this journey. I am reminded of what I tell my kids when they come home with a low test score, or if they add time at a swim meet: without challenge there is no growth.
I am interested in what you have to say and in any pieces of advice or encouragement. Emails are great, but, please also include a comment in the comments section at the bottom of the post. By allowing all to see we may even start an interesting dialogue. As always, I plan to remain positive and maintain a sense of humor. XoM
Photos by the lovely and talented Christine Johnson of Christine Johnson Photography.