Friday, March 11, 2011

Ready for Some Medical Science?

There's been a clear history of heart disease, stroke, cholesterol and high blood pressure in my family, particularly on my mother's side. So I have always taken a very active approach to managing my cardiovascular health. My diet is pretty good (the odd haggis aside), and I try to swim three times per week. With the distillery, I'm getting more physical activity than ever before. All in all, I'm trying to eat right and keep my weight down. And all that helps.

But then there are genetics, and those issues can usually only be controlled through prescriptions. I take Lipitor (10mg/day, atorvastatin), red yeast rice (1200mg/day, naturally ocurring lovastatin), CoQ-10 (100 mg/day, an enzyme recommended for those taking statins), and fish oil (1200 mg/day, high-potency EPA/DHA) which have been shown, through various studies, to have a positive effect on LDL, HDL and triglycerides.

I have the numbers to show effectiveness of this approach on my own health.  I've been plotting my cholesterol numbers in a spreadsheet, and correlating them with my medicinal doses for about ten years now.  Overall, for the past five years, this regimen, combined with my good lifestyle factors, has kept my cholesterol and triglycerides in reasonably good territory.

However, recently, my triglycerides spiked to 251 mg/dL, so my doctor opted to perform a Berkley Test. This is a very detailed report that breaks down all kinds of factors, both diet based and genetic markers, showing very detailed information about specific proteins, lipids, and genes in the blood.

My results are here:

In general, what this test showed is that my heart health is quite good. I am 'optimal' in most factors (insulin a notable one among them, since diabetes also runs in my family).

In measuring LDL-C, LDL IIIa+b, and LDL IVb, my numbers are slightly higher than desired. These LDLs are smaller-sized LDLs that are more prone to attach to arterial walls than their larger LDL cousins. (So, something to watch for.) Also, my Apo B was high, which is a genetic factor increasing my risk.

For my KIF6, another genetic marker, I was not at risk. This is good news, since 60% of people tested have this factor, which again, increases risk of heart disease. However, I did have the 9p21 genetic marker, which suggests I have a 1.56 times more likely chance of having an early myocardial infarction (aka a heart attack). This is somewhat of concern, since my maternal grandfather had a heart attack before he was 60. Again, genetics, and something to watch out for.

So, for me, the end results suggest I am doing what I need to be doing: exercising, eating right, and keeping my weight down. My genetics suggests I still have a slightly higher risk to heart disease, but I already knew that.  Managing my health the way I do, I can minimize my risks as much as possible.

So, here's to happy heart health!

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