Now that I’m coming to the final few days of the writing process for the manuscript to my forthcoming August 27, 2013 book release with Dr. Eric Westman entitled Cholesterol Clarity: What The HDL Is Wrong With My Numbers? (what a fun project this has been to write and I can’t wait for it to get out there!), I thought it would be educational to take a look back at various cholesterol test results I’ve had run over the past five years, including the latest I had run last week.
Since 2008, I have tested my blood for cholesterol–5 of them are the standard lipid panel and the other 5 are my favorite cholesterol particle test called the NMR Lipoprofile. Because my cholesterol levels have leaned towards the higher side of things, observing the particle number and size testing along with the shifts happening in triglycerides and HDL especially has been good to keep an eye on. As an educated layperson on all of this stuff, I’m motivated to empower others with the right kind of knowledge they need to make the best decisions about their health.
People are obsessed about their cholesterol numbers, but one or two numbers alone on that panel don’t tell the whole story. We hammer this message hard in Cholesterol Clarity and explain why there are other things that may take precedence over LDL and total cholesterol. For those who are worried about their “high cholesterol” and their doctor telling them they need to be on a statin drug, there are a couple of things that can be done to help settle your fears: 1) Getting a CT Heart Scan for your Coronary Calcium Score (watch my wife Christine getting one of these done in 2011) and 2) Getting checked for familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). I had both of these tests run on myself in the past month because my total cholesterol exceeded 400 in December 2012. The natural assumption is that I have FH and that calcified plaque is building up in my arteries. So I wanted to find out and I’m now happy to share the results from these tests with you.
When I had my first CT Heart Scan done on August 17, 2009, the score came back perfect at 0. But with my LDL-C, total cholesterol and LDL particles increasing in the past few years, some have expressed concern that I’m at great risk for the development of atherosclerotic plaque that would lead to a heart attack or heart disease. But when I got another one done on March 14, 2013, the report again came back with a Coronary Calcium Score of ZERO signifying “no identified calcified left or right coronary artery plaque.” Additionally, it showed that my risk of coronary artery disease is “very low, generally less than 5%.” WOO HOO! There are other tests that you can have run to look at the soft plaque and other markers that I put in my book for people who want to jump through more hoops to know for sure what the state of their health is. This is going to help so many people stressing out about their cholesterol numbers.
The other test I had done the day after my heart scan on March 15, 2013 was a genetic test to see if I carry the LDLR FULL GENE or the APOB PARTIAL GENE signifying I have familial heterozygous hypercholesterolemia because my total cholesterol has been going up and up in the past couple of years. In fact, the report automatically assumed I had FH, so to lay aside all doubt I had my DNA tested. What were the results? According to the report, it said “this result indicates a significantly decreased likelihood this individual is affected with familial hypercholesterolemia due to a mutation in this gene.” AMAZING! I was hoping I wasn’t FH, but now I know for sure. All the obsession about putting people with FH or assumed to have FH on statins without seeing what else is going on is a travesty.
I put together an Excel spreadsheet of the 10 cholesterol tests I have had run over the past five years. The only ones I don’t have results for on half of these are LDL-P and Small LDL-P that are only found on an NMR Lipoprofile test. Check out the trend in the numbers, especially over the past year while I’ve been on my n=1 experiment of nutritional ketosis:
There are some interesting things about all of those numbers, so let’s take a closer look at them individually graphing the changes:
The LDL-P number indicates the total number of LDL particles floating around in my bloodstream. As you can see, there has been a precipitous rise in this number peaking at 3,451 in October 2012. But check out what has happened in the past six months–the LDL-P dropped to 2,730, or 721 points! That’s a whopping 21% DECREASE. When I’ve talked to some lipidologist friends, they said the only way to drop LDL-P is to cut my fat intake and take a statin drug. But I increased my saturated fat intake, engaged in regular intermittent fasting and continued to pursue being in a state of nutritional ketosis. Now that my weight loss has slowed down in recent months, perhaps everything that went haywire with my numbers is calming down and this number is returning to normal again. I fully expect this LDL-P to keep dropping and that any perceived threat these high levels were to me was much ado about nothing.
Check out my latest LDL-C at 236. While that is still considered very high by conventional wisdom standards, it also reflects my cholesterol numbers becoming more normalized again after soaring up above 300 last year. Perhaps the trend will continue to go down as my weight stabilizes even more. In fact, that’s the lowest level of LDL-C I have seen since 2009. While I don’t put much stock in LDL-C meaning anything that warrants treatment, it is an interesting number to watch for determining if something else is going on.
My HDL-C has been one of the most stable parts of my lipid panel over these past five years. And the best part is it has remained in a very healthy range averaging around 67 throughout. Having HDL cholesterol above 50 is an excellent metabolic state to be in and I’m grateful that my HDL has remained a steady force of strength in the midst of the chaos with my other numbers.
Triglycerides are another peculiar marker on your lipid panel and anything under 100 indicates excellent metabolic health as well. Generally when your triglycerides are elevated, your HDL is lower. And vice versa–lower triglycerides leads to higher HDL cholesterol. And it’s the triglycerides/HDL ratio that is the best indicator of heart health risk on that entire lipid panel. What I’m most proud of is the microscopic 38 level of triglycerides on my latest test results–about HALF what it was just six months ago. This is a PHENOMENAL state to be in!
Most doctors would look at this graph in horror thinking I have a major statin deficiency. But it’s interesting how the trend really doesn’t show that much of a change. Sure, it spiked up above 400 late last year, but keep in mind I had lost around 55 pounds at that point and weight loss can indeed raise your cholesterol. But now that I’m returning to a more stable weight, my total cholesterol has dropped over 100 points since December 2012. AMAZING! How many people take a statin drug to lower their total cholesterol when perhaps their body would have naturally taken care of that without the medication? It just breaks my heart! Yes, this level is still showing there is something else perhaps going on and I’m exploring those issues personally. But it doesn’t mean I need to automatically jump to statin therapy.
While there is debate about whether it is the LDL particle number or LDL particle size, one thing is for sure–you don’t want a lot of Small LDL-P in your body! As you can see, my high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb approach has kept this number right where it needs to be. Ideally you’d like for it to be as close to zero as possible, but I’ll take what I have. I will continue to monitor this to make sure I stay under 500 over the long term. It will be interesting to monitor this as my LDL-P keeps dropping as I predict it will.
VLDL is basically your triglycerides divided by 5. My latest level of 7 is so low that the test couldn’t even detect them. WOW! I’d say that’s a good thing.
So there you have it! Everything you could ever want to know about my cholesterol test results from 2008-2013. I am committed to taking control of my own health and not being pressured into taking a drug I may or may not need. If someone can convince me that I have some disease that requires me to take a statin drug, then I’m willing to listen. But so far all I have heard is that I need to artificially lower some number on a piece of paper to levels that someone says is ideal. Puh-leez! I’m just not buying it and neither should you. We’re exploring this topic much more thoroughly in Cholesterol Clarity coming out in a few months featuring 28 of the world’s best experts from a variety of fields on this subject. MORE DETAILS COMING SOON!
What do you think about my cholesterol test results? Do you have any questions or observations you’d like to share about my numbers? Share your feedback in the comments section below.