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article - How's Your Cholesterol? The Crowd Wants to Know

Posted by on Oct. 5, 2012 at 1:32 PM
  • 9 Replies


How's Your Cholesterol? The Crowd Wants To Know

Members of the online community Track Your Plaque get advice from a doctor and each other on how to cook low carb meals.
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Members of the online community Track Your Plaque get advice from a doctor and each other on how to cook low carb meals.

Our impulse to share intimate details about our lives within our social networks (and even sometimes with complete strangers) seems to know few bounds.

Now devices loaded with health apps let us monitor and share our sleep patterns, stress levels and physical activity, to name a few. And it's easier than ever to get lab tests through websites like LabCorp.com and MyMedLabs.com, should we want to share those too.

Some people are looking to manage their health by combining the data with the wisdom of the crowds. Take for instance, adherents of the paleo diet.

 

On the website PaleoHacks, members routinely mine the experiences of others to figure out whether they're eating more fruit than the diet routine calls for, the meaning of the color of their stool, and how to interpret subtle changes in their cholesterol levels.

One user who goes by Toni posted a request earlier this year for help hacking cholesterol results. "I'm seeing my doctor on Friday and want to be able to give him my perspective on these results," Toni writes. "This is my first cholesterol panel since I began eating strict Paleo eight months ago, including no dairy." Eight people responded. Some told Toni the numbers looked fine; others referred Toni to other medical resources on the Web.

"People are now getting measurements of their cholesterol to look at what's happening to them as they try a new diet to justify it," says Chris Masterjohn, a nutritional scientist in the paleo community who studies cholesterol and has a blog called The Daily Lipid.

Masterjohn says people routinely share their lipid results in the comment section of his blog. And he notes blogger Jimmy Moore of Living La Vida Low-Carb shares his latest blood ketone level, an indicator of fat metabolism. Masterjohn says he understands why people like finding out this stuff about themselves: "I would runs lots of tests on myself if I had the money for it," he says.

Mainstream medicine isn't in favor of self-analysis, or seeking advice from non-professionals, of course. And anyone who does so is running a risk.

But there are folks who want to change the course of their heart health with a combination of professional and peer support. Some are bent on tackling the plaque that forms in arteries that can lead to heart disease. They gather online at Track Your Plaque, or "TYP" to the initiates.

"We test, test, test ... and basically experiment on ourselves and have through trial and error came up with the TYP program, which is tailored to the individual," Patrick Theut, a veteran of the site who tells Shots he has watched his plaque slow, stop and regress.

The site was created in 2004 by Bill Davis, a preventive cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wisc. Davis is also the author of Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health, which argues that wheat is addictive and bad for most people's health. Davis recommends eliminating wheat from the diet to most new members of Track Your Plaque.

"The heart is one of the hardest things to self-manage but when you let people take the reins of control, you get far better results and far fewer catastrophes like heart attacks," Davis tells Shots.

Doctors typically give patients diagnosed with heart disease two options: take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, or make lifestyle changes, like diet. It's usually far easier for both parties — the doctor and the patient — to go with the drugs than manage the much more difficult lifestyle changes, Davis says.

"Doctors say take the Lipitor, cut the fat and call me if you have chest pain," he explains. "But that's an awful way to manage care."

TYP has members submit their scores from heart CT scans, cholesterol values, lipoproteins and other heart health factors to a panel of doctors, nutritionists and exercise specialists. Then they receive advice in the form of an individualized plaque-control program. But the online forum, where users share their results with other members and exchange tips, is where most of the TYP action happens.

The community currently has about 2,400 members who pay $39.95 for a quarterly membership, or $89.75 for a yearly membership. Davis says all proceeds go towards maintaining the website.

Ilaine Upton is a 60-year-old bankruptcy lawyer from Fairfax, Va., and a TYP member. At a friend's suggestion, Upton decided to get a heart CT scan in July. Her score was higher than it should have been (22 instead of 0), so she decided to get her blood lipids and cholesterol tested, too, and sent a sample off to MyMedLabs.com.

She learned that her LDL particle count was over 2,000 ("crazy high," she says), and she posted her results on TYP. Davis advised her that a low-carb diet would reduce it, so she decided to try it.

Since July, she says she has had "excellent results" with the program, and her LDL counts are coming down.

"It would be nice to have a [personal] physician involved in this, but [my insurer] Blue Cross won't pay if you are not symptomatic, and I am trying to prevent becoming symptomatic," says Upton. "I feel very empowered by this knowledge and the ability to take better control of my health by getting feedback on the decisions I make."

by on Oct. 5, 2012 at 1:32 PM
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Replies (1-9):
RobynS
by Mama2CamKat on Oct. 5, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Oh boy... I haven't had mine checked in a while, but last time I did it was pretty good. :)

michiganmom116
by Platinum Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 1:57 PM


Quoting RobynS:

Oh boy... I haven't had mine checked in a while, but last time I did it was pretty good. :)

If it were high, what would you do?  Would you be proactive at getting the numbers lower?  Or would you be like millions and let the doctor give you a pill and you go on your merry way?

(just asking...like the article)

RobynS
by Mama2CamKat on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:25 PM
1 mom liked this

I would be proactive. And fortunately, my doctor is not a "give a pill" kinda doctor. She's all about the natural, healthy approach (imagine that!). :)

Quoting michiganmom116:


Quoting RobynS:

Oh boy... I haven't had mine checked in a while, but last time I did it was pretty good. :)

If it were high, what would you do?  Would you be proactive at getting the numbers lower?  Or would you be like millions and let the doctor give you a pill and you go on your merry way?

(just asking...like the article)



matreshka
by Bronze Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:30 PM
1 mom liked this

My bad cholesterol is a few points borderline high, my good cholesterol is a few points high in a good way.  I have a family history of really high cholesterol.

I am going to check out some of those health apps, thanks!




matreshka
by Bronze Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Oh and also, I after getting the news my bad cholesterol was high it was a wake up call that I can't just eat what I want anymore.  I cut out all fried foods and most junk and have been using EEVO and omegas as well.

Both my parents take the meds, and they still have high cholesterol.

michiganmom116
by Platinum Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:38 PM


Quoting matreshka:


Both my parents take the meds, and they still have high cholesterol.

My parents are the same way.  That's the way it was with me when I was taking statins and following the "low-fat/whole grains/more meatless meals" advice...my cholesterol went well over 300!  Triglycerides were off the charts.  LDL and HDL numbers were horrible.  These alone were a strong indicator that I needed to change SOMETHING. 


michiganmom116
by Platinum Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:38 PM


I just had blood work done this week...still waiting on the results.  Since changing my diet to paleo 18 months ago, my overall cholesterol has been normal and LDL and HDL are beautiful numbers.  I'm still battling high triglycerides, but I'm hoping that cutting all sugar/most carbs and eating more non-starchy veggies will help to bring that number down.  I'm not basing my life around my cholesterol levels, but I do know that they are a good indicator of what's going on inside.

matreshka
by Bronze Member on Oct. 5, 2012 at 4:41 PM
1 mom liked this

Whole grain, vegetarian and sometimes vegan was my diet for about 12 years.  I am honestly feeling better eating meat, veggies, small amounts of whole grains and good fats.  I hate to admit it though.  It has also helped DH and LO to not be veggies any more.

Quoting michiganmom116:


Quoting matreshka:


Both my parents take the meds, and they still have high cholesterol.

My parents are the same way.  That's the way it was with me when I was taking statins and following the "low-fat/whole grains/more meatless meals" advice...my cholesterol went well over 300!  Triglycerides were off the charts.  LDL and HDL numbers were horrible.  These alone were a strong indicator that I needed to change SOMETHING. 




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