Scott Gets His Blood Checked
After a discussion with my mother concerning my family’s health history and heart disease, I did some investigating into heart healthy diets. I was influenced by the low-carbohydrate research referenced in Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, and the Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain. According to these books, and a recent review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March, 2010, in order to decrease cardiovascular risk we should reduce excess body fat and limit refined carbohydrates in our diet, such as processed starches (i.e. crackers, pastas, breads) and sugar. That sounded like an interesting proposition to test for myself. In addition, I wanted to challenge the notions that 1) dietary fat does not raise LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), 2) that sugar and refined carbohydrates do raise LDL cholesterol, and 3) a high saturated fat diet would actually increase HDL (the “good” cholesterol) .
I have followed the guidelines of a low-carbohydrate diet for approximately two years that kept overall carbohydrate intake (including fruit and vegetables) to approximately 100 grams per day, ate little to no bread, and consumed a higher-fat diet, especially saturated fat. While I am at work, with poor meal-preparation and needing to eat between clients, I have two Muscle Milk shakes and/or a protein bar(s) per day. During the week, I eat an assortment of meat, seafood, nuts, fish and whole eggs. As for vegetables, I eat primarily dark green veggies, such as broccoli, spinach, arugula and asparagus, but I also include cauliflower and watercress. Additionally, I exercise 4-5 times per week with at least 3 intense Crossfit routines ranging from 8-30+ minutes and 2-3 heavy lifting exercise routines. I am 35 years old, with two children (4 & 7 years old). My current body fat is around 10%, I average six hours of sleep six days per week, and I sleep in on Sundays.
There has been an extensive amount of research concerning the benefits and consequences of a deficiency in vitamin D. With the importance of an adequate vitamin D level in mind, and because I go to work and return home in the dark during the winter (vitamin D is called the “sunlight vitamin” because our bodies make it from sunlight), I inconsistently supplement with 5,000-10,000 IU of vitamin D3. Unfortunately, a specific test needs to be ordered to determine an individual’s vitamin D level – it is not a part of a regular physical exam blood profile. So, I was looking forward to seeing my lipid profile and vitamin D level in order to determine how healthy my blood might suggest I am. Otherwise, exercising regularly and eating a specific diet is not worth missing the lounging around, consuming pies and doughnuts, and watching television. ☺
Here are the results of my lipid profile:
Component My Value Standard Range*
CHOLESTEROL 144 < 200- mg/dL
TRIGLYCERIDE 79 < 150- mg/dL
HDL 69 > 55-65- mg/dL
LDL CALCULATED 59 <100-129- mg/dL
VITAMIN D, 25-HYDROXY 34 30-100 ng/mL
My physician said my laboratory tests all look great. At one time, the cholesterol ratio was considered better for physicians to assess a patient’s risk of heart disease, but it appears times have changed. Physicians are more interested in the raw numbers. However, my lipid profile is unique in that my HDL cholesterol is actually higher than my LDL cholesterol. I attribute this aspect of my lipid profile to my higher-fat diet. Short-term and long-term low-carbohydrate studies consistently show to increase in HDL cholesterol with increased saturated fat intake.
As for the vitamin D results, although I am in the “normal range”, I am alarmed that I am in the low normal range after supplementing with vitamin D3. The conversion of vitamin D3 in the body is dependent on the concentration of a certain enzyme, and the concentration varies among people. Although controversial on the optimal level, evidence suggests vitamin D3 level should be above 50 – 80 ng/dL. Therefore, either I need to increase my vitamin D3 supplementation, get more sun, or a little bit of both. Either way, I need to have another vitamin D3 test in another three months to see if I am increasing my levels effectively.
In conclusion, I am happy with my results, but the vitamin D test was a novel piece of health knowledge. Everybody should have a yearly physical to record personal markers of health, and identify detrimental changes.
So, when is the last time you had your blood tested?