Thursday, October 11, 2007


I'm in that tiny percentage of the population that has familial hypercholesterolemia. My cholesterol was over 350 the first time it was tested and it had next to nothing to do with my diet or lifestyle. (That's over 9 using the units they use in Europe, and it's actually low compared to some people in my family!) I was in my 20's and I had to BEG my doctor for the blood test. He was convinced I didn't need it. When we got the results back, he didn't seem to know what to do. Rather than give me any advice, he asked what my brother and sister (3,000 miles away!) had been told to do! I knew what my first move should be - I switched doctors!

Today I watched a kid eat a "lunchable" for her lunch. Holy cow! If I'm going to eat that much fat in one meal, I'd rather it was something yummy like Ben & Jerry's icecream! I save my fat calories for good stuff! I sometimes have to remind myself though when I'm getting all self-righteous about it, that people like me are only 0.2% of the population and most people's bodies can handle fat much better than mine can. I've had to learn that what I like is not always what I should be eating - and that, somewhat like a diabetic, my life may depend on it. The difference is that a diabetic's body reacts quickly to the wrong foods. Mine reacts slowly, but over many years the wrong food will still kill me. Many people don't ever get the chance to learn that, because they don't find out until too late that their cholesterol is high.

People thought I was odd to have my kids' cholesterol tested before they were even teenagers. With an inherited condition like this, the chances were 50/50 that I had passed it on and I figured it was better to know sooner rather than later. Fortunately, we have an excellent pediatrician who agreed that an early test was a good idea and who then sent us to the appropriate expert when indeed one of the children turned out to have high cholesterol. It was a long drive for a short appointment, but well worth it! Now it is being recommended in the UK that all children have their cholesterol tested at age 15 months because so many adults don't even know what their cholesterol is. What a change from 20 years ago when my doctor thought I didn't need to have my cholesterol tested because I wasn't even 30 yet, female and a non-smoker!


Anonymous said...

You are so right to have insisted on a check. What surprises me is that the doctor didn't appear to know your condition existed, let alone how to treat it.

Almost American said...

Well, 20 years ago women under 30 who were non-smokers weren't considered to be at risk of heart disease. I had told my doctor I was there because my mother had just been told she had extremely high cholesterol, but he didn't think that was significant. As I said, I switched doctors.

It's amazing how our knowledge changes over time! I used to see doctors as people who had all the answers when it came to health - and now I understand that they are often only guessing. Their guesses tend to be better than mine given that they have more medical knowledge than I do, but there is still so much they don't know and things they used to know for certain are not always so certain any more!

Anonymous said...

It's true doctors are not infallible. Mine treated me for a possible ulcer (using quite powerful drugs) when I was convinced it was a case of hiatus hernia. Eventually, while discussing it with a friend I learned that you could 'reflux' but not feel it and it was this lack of 'heartburn' that convinced the doc I didn't have hh. I insisted on tests and lo and behold they did find hiatus hernia. Homeopathic remedies worked better than swallowing gallons of gaviscon but, at least I could say goodbye to those ulcer drugs!

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