I tell you this story because it can have great impact on your lives – (as well as save you all from a lot of impact!)
I also tell it because I really love it when I’m right about this sort of stuff. Makes my day.
I went and had my yearly physical last week and, as usual, everything was hunky-dorey. But however peachy my platelets were, my cholesterol numbers made my doctor frown.
Backing up a bit: After speaking with my friend and co-author Dr. Michael Eades about eating an all fat meat diet and reading a book he suggested called Strong Medicine which discusses the health benefits of such a diet, I decided to give it a whirl.
For ~2 months straight I ate nothing but fatty meats, eggs, fatty fish and an occasional grapefruit, salad and coffee. I drank at least a half gallon of water everyday.
Boy was this way of eating delicious.
Boy was this way of eating expensive.
At no point did I ever feel tired or listless, I never had loose bowels nor was I constipated. My workouts were perfectly strong and in many ways I felt better. No gas, no bloating, no heartburn (BTW all of these symptoms vanished in both my wife and myself after ridding ourselves of refined carbs and most grains years ago).
I felt good, very good and have adopted this way of eating for good.
Back to the point (we’ll get to the stress test in a moment – it’s a fascinating story).
So Friday afternoon my cell phone rings and its my doctor, Dr. Iris Sherman. She has called to give me the low down on my results. "Fred, everything is normal. But here are your cholesterol numbers: HDL 91, LDL 179, total: 276. Cholesterol:HDL Ratio (an important equation according to the folks that believe in the theory of low cholesterol = a healthy heart) 3.0. (Ratios should be 5.0 or below.)
So far, I was quite happy. (For those of you who don’t know doctors these days want your cholesterol to be below 200.)
I asked: "What were my triglycerides?" "30" she replied.
30 is truly exceptional. (Even I was shocked.) Many doctors today are looking at this number more than LDL as a predictor of CHD and CAD. In fact, I read about some docs who are looking at the HDL/triglyceride ratio as a better predictor as opposed to HDl/LDL ratio.
So you know, my numbers from last year were HDl 75, LDL 152, total: 239 ratio 3.2. Triglycerides 56. So all in all, my numbers were better than before eating more fat and meat, less fruits and veggies and no grain whatsoever.
Except for that pesky LDL.
I had asked Dr. Sherman to test for LDL/VLDL as it is the small dense LDLs that are the real bad guys. But she didn’t. She said that she had come back from a conference where the verdict was LDL is BAD no matter how you look at it and regardless of your HDL, triglycerides or the halo above your head, the LDL demon must be destroyed.
Or investigated further.
I mentioned to her that in the past I had experienced some chest pains on two separate occasions. It was stress more than likely but since I am 44 and had experienced these aches as well as had high LDL (and she knows I do not perform any aerobic exercise) she thought a stress test seemed in order.
Enter Dr. Harry Weinrauch, cardiologist.
The meeting was very pleasant. He was very nice and easy to talk to. As he took my BP, he pleasantly asked me what I did for a living and politely explained that he would need to rake off half of my chest hairs to do the pre-test and test.
Pre-test normal. BP normal. Air-conditioner on. Sneakers tightly laced. Set and ready to go.
So we start at a slow walking pace. As we do this for 10 minutes we discuss aspect of exercise physiology which he admittedly wished he knew more about. I explained that in our research for my book, we discovered that strength training does in fact increase total mitochondria – the little oxygen eating pac-men that runners have tons of but thought to decrease in strength trained athletes.
BP test again. Almost no change. Heart rate 85.
He tweaked up the pace.
We then discussed the issue of the healthy heart versus the unhealthy heart and the ‘trained’ heart. I asked "Can you tell the difference between a trained heart like an endurance athletes heart and my heart at rest?" Dr. Weinrauch replied "Endurance athletes usually have lower resting heart rates but other than that not really." I found this answer to be quite interesting.
He continued "But interestingly enough, I was just at a conference where it was discussed that the heart of the endurance athlete closely resembles the unhealthy/diseased heart and many of us are starting to wonder if this is no longer a good thing."
He continued on talking about this issue and took another BP reading. I asked "What’s my HR now?" "118" he said and turned to write something in his chart.
I said "You know I’ve been writing about this issue for many years and came to the conclusion that even thought the heart is a muscle, it is also an involuntary organ. I know of no other involuntary organ that is made healthier or better in any way by making it overwork day after day, month after month, year after year."
He stopped writing. Turning to look at me and peering over his bifocals he said "Please repeat that sentence." Our discussion continued.
He warned me that now he needed to raise the treadmill up and kick up the speed. The pace now was quick and I had to walk fast. Talking was now a touch harder but so far everything was easy.
10 minutes go by. BP check normal. HR 140. So far so good.
Part 2 tomorrow or later on tonight. Gotta ‘run’ the kids to school.