Friday, April 16, 2010

Bloody Marvelous

I just received the results of my first-ever blood panel.

Normally, I avoid conventional medicine (aside from emergency care, which is a whole other -- and much more impressive! -- ballgame) like the plague that it (mostly) is.

But, when Central District Health brought a $22 cholesterol screening and fasting blood glucose test clinic to my office, I couldn't pass up the chance for some cheap numbers. My inner geek demands regular feedings, after all, and I was dying to know whether this high fat, moderate protein, fairly low carb diet was killing me.

I've been primal (closer to paleo, actually) for a good 7 months now. Unfortunately, I don't have "before" blood work. A comparison would be fascinating, particularly as I'd been mostly vegan for the previous three years.

Anyway, here are the numbers as they came off the report. Interpretation to follow.

Fasting blood glucose: 84 mg/dL (Optimal is 60-100. Higher puts you in the pre-diabetes or diabetes category.)

Total cholesterol: 216 mg/dL (Optimal is under 200. Or so says conventional wisdom. Wait for it...)

Triglycerides: 38 mg/dL (Optimal is 30-150.)

HDL: 101 mg/dL (Optimal is 40 or more. This is the "good" cholesterol.)

LDL: 107 mg/dL (Optimal is under 100. According to conventional wisdom.)

I know enough about cholesterol to be unconcerned about these numbers, but for all the gory details, I pulled up this fantastic post, written by a knowledgeable member of the MDA forum. "Griff" has actually reversed full-fledged, type II diabetes with diet alone, and he knows his stuff.

As Griff explains clearly and thoroughly, total cholesterol is much less important than the ratios between the numbers, and LDL cholesterol numbers from a simple test like this are inaccurate in anyone with triglycerides below 100 mg/dL.

Let's start with that second point. LDL is typically calculated using the Friedwald formula, but it is well known that the formula only works properly, mathematically speaking, if trigs are higher than 100 mg/dL. Therefore, because my trigs only came in at 38, I know that the 107 listed for my calculated LDL is inaccurate.

Fortunately, there is a different and more accurate formula available. According to the Iranian calculation (detailed in Griff's post, if you're curious), my LDL is actually only 71.7 -- well within the optimal range of 100 or fewer mg/dL. So there.

Now, let's talk about ratios. There are three that count. Here are mine and what they mean:

Total:HDL = 216:101 = 2.1 (Ideal for women is 4.4 or lower. This indicates that my LDL cholesterol is predominantly Pattern A, or "large fluffy," which is neutral rather than dangerous.)

Trigs:HDL = 38:101 = .37 (Ideal is 2 or lower. This indicates low risk of heart disease, as well as low free insulin, which is a good thing.)

LDL:HDL = 71.7:101 = .7 (Ideal is 4.3 or below. Even using the inaccurate, Friedwald formula, my ratio is still stellar at 1. This indicates that I have very little carotid plaque.)

So. It looks like I'm not going to keel over from coronary heart disease anytime soon.

Pass the bacon n' barbell, please.

For details of what I've been eating these past 7 months, check out the posts labeled Tuesday Tallies. You'll see that they've changed some over time (mostly in a carb-lowering direction), but the central principles have remained intact.

PSA: If you have bloodwork results of your own handy, please, PLEASE do yourself a favor and run the ratios on them. Your numbers can be low enough to satisfy your doctor, yet your ratios could put you in the danger zone. Conversely, you may have been prescribed statins (and all their nasty side effects) when your ratios are actually quite safe. See the MDA post linked above for easy instructions on how to do the math.

For further reading, there are lots of links in the post. See also Protein Power by the Drs. Eades.


Jeff Pickett said...

Congrats on the lipid panel numbers. One more reassurance that this lifestyle works and one more knife to put into the back of Conventional Wisdom.

The Cords said...

This is awesome! I too just got my numbers done, and even though I've only been primal for a couple months now I must say I am very happy.

HDL - 38 (this is low, but it has risen by 10 points since my last screening)

Cholesterol - 139

TryGliceride - 83

LDL: 84

This puts most of my numbers well inside the Ideal Range of CW, and considering I still have many many more pounds to lose I can assume it will only get better. I plan on getting another test in six months, and compare the two.

Don Wiss said...

@The Cords. For a paleo eater your HDL is rather low. Are you following a low fat version of the paleo diet? Do you not exercise?

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Thanks Jeff! Of course, n=1...but there are a lot of us "n's" out there!

Hi Cords! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your numbers. Is that Iranian LDL? Nice job getting your HDL moving upward. I'd be interested to hear what you find out on your next test.

Welcome, Don. :)

Nicotinate is reputed to have an HDL raising effect in most people. I don't know a lot about it, though -- consult an expert for further info. And as Don says, a paleo diet with plenty of saturated and monounsaturated fats should increase HDL fairly quickly.

The Cords said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Cords said...

@Don Wiss

Yes, I have been following a low fat version of the primal diet. My exercise has not been as regular as I would like it considering my loaded schedule. I probably go to the gym about twice a week right now - 30 minutes of weight lifting.


I'm in the process of trying to lose about 200lbs so I've been cutting my calories severely - it's still hard to accept in my mind that I can eat a steak or primal meatballs for lunch and still drop the weight as quickly as I want/need to.

darius said...

Hi! I've barely started this better diet (for now mostly paleo) but had blood work just prior, fortunately. I don't have a copy yet but it will be interesting to compare it in another 6 months. Yours is terrific!