A Daughter’s Journey to Help Save her Mother’s Life

August 10, 2012 – July 2008 was unlike any summer month I had ever experienced. After agonizing for almost four long weeks, I was being rushed into emergency surgery from the Hospital’s ER with the diagnosis of an aggravated hernia. I didn’t realize it at the time, but recovering in a hospital was the least of my worries.

My mother, sister, and boyfriend had all been to visit me in the ICU, but there was one visitor missing.  Hours passed before I discovered who my next ICU visitor was . . . the Kankakee County Coroner’s office??? My hospital room was the last number dialed on my father’s cell phone, which emergency workers fished from a car wreck boiling down the last memories of my father to a voice heard over a 2 minute phone call.  He was calling to say that he was driving down to see me and visit his grandchildren. That phone call would be the last time I would speak to my father – EVER.

The Daily Journal reported “the driver [being] southbound on I-57 near the Bradley-Bourbonnais interchange at 12:09 p.m. when the vehicle crossed the median strip, crossed the northbound lanes, ran through a fence and hit a crane” (“Two Killed…” 2008).

Later, it was revealed that what took the life of my father was not the accident itself, but what transpired seconds before the accident took place.  Charles J., 57, suffered a heart attack that caused him to lose control of his vehicle (Byrns 2008).   Yes, a HEART ATTACK!  The coroner’s prognosis completely blind-sided our family. And yes, we knew for years that our father was not a true picture of health.  However, there was never any indication of heart disease, other than knowing that his father had died of a heart attack at the golden age of 50. My father’s primary cause of death, as indicated on his death certificate, was Atherosclerosis.  I learned that you could develop this condition due to: elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking.

Last month marked, the 4th “angel-versary”, of my father’s horrific passing from Coronary Heart Disease.  When I landed a job working at FutureCeuticals Direct in 2011, and found out that they were on the brink of expanding the distribution of their heart-health product, Nutrim, which helps lower cholesterol naturally; I knew this had to be a sign from above.  With one parent gone, I only have one left—my mother.  This weekly video series will document a Nutrim–beginner’s journey–starring my mother, Cecile.

To listen to Cecile’s story, watch below.

Video Highlights:
Name:  Cecile
Gender: Female  Age: 58
Marital Status:  Widowed (4 years)
Occupation:  Nurse, (30 years)
Youngest of 5 siblings (1 male, 4 females)
Cholesterol Total: 265; LDL:183; HDL: 61
Gained 22 lbs over past year; weighs 220.

Family History: 
Mother died at age 57 – suffered from chronic hypertension– issues with cholesterol unknown.
Father at age 79 – died of massive heart attack with no prior heart conditions known.
1 Brother; age: 65- 2 yrs ago suffered a 5 bypass coronary; 90% occluded due to high cholesterol.
1 Sister; age: 62 currently suffering from chronic hypertension on-going for the past 20 years and has a history of high cholesterol.

 Cecile’s Personal Goals while taking Nutrim: lower cholesterol naturally, lose weight, gain energy, avoid side effects and be able to live a long life without taking prescription meds.

Citation:
“Two Killed in Interstate 57 Crash.” E-Editions. Daily Journal, 1 Aug. 2008. Web. 25 July 2012. <http://daily-journal.com/archives/dj/display.php?id=424991>.
Byrns, Bill. “Grassy Medians Meant to Contain Accidents Have a Fatal Flaw.” E-Editions. Daily Journal, 6 Sept. 2008. Web. 25 July 2012. <http://daily-journal.com/archives/dj/display.php?id=424991>.

What is the Portfolio Diet?

The Natural Way

Is it possible to lower cholesterol?  A research study printed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritions says a emphatic “YES”.  A low saturated fat diet was combined with either a statin medication or a specialized diet.  The result of cholesterol drop for the specialized diet (29.6%) was comparable to the drop using the statin drug (33.3%).  This can give a lot of people hope.

The Main Idea

This diet is called the Portfolio Diet.  It’s made up of cholesterol-lowering foods such as soluble fiber (like beta glucan found in oats), plant sterols, soy foods, almonds, okra, and eggplant.  The diet was considered to be highly successful at lowering cholesterol which gives everyone hope for lowering their cholesterol through diet.

Have a “Stick To It” Attitude

One criticism of the diet is that some doctors say it’s difficult to follow the diet.  Since the diet was only followed for a month I think it is well within reach.  The main point I took away from the study was that it seems to be very possible to get significant drops in cholesterol through diet change alone.  One just has to stick with it.

The TLC Diet

Get Some TLC

To help people on the road to lower cholesterol naturally the goverment has created the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet.  This diet is designed to help the typical American drop their cholesterol naturally.  The government suggests that doctors first recommend the TLC diet, for those who do not have heart disease, to help their patients lower their cholesterol before trying medication.  This is a great approach for people who would like to avoid medication.  Success rates are good, especially if the diet is started early.

Get to Know the TLC Diet

Below are some of the components of the TLC diet:

  • Reduced intakes of saturated fats, 7% of total calories
  • cholesterol, 200mg/d
  • Theraputic options -increased viscous(soluble) fiber; plant sterols and stanol
  • Weight Reduction
  • Increased Physical Activity

It Really Works!

Diet has been refered to as the “cornerstone” in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.  It is important to take heart and cardiovascular disease seriously and heed the diet recommendations of our doctors and government agencies.  In this case, implementing a good diet may not only help us avoid medications that can carry side effects, but you are likely to experience positive side effects by eating better and getting more exercise.  It’s a win-win situation.

How Do I increase My HDL?

The “Good” Cholesterol

A good level of HDL cholesterol is vital to heart health.  The idea is that HDL cholesterol is cholesterol that is being moved to the liver, where it will be processed.  After the liver, the cholesterol leaves the body.  HDL levels reflect how well your body is processing cholesterol.  When your LDL is too high and your HDL is too low, it means cholesterol is being stored in your body.  The storage of that cholesterol can lead to some major problems.

Avoid Smoking

One good way to maintain a healthy HDL level is to avoid smoking.  Smoking has a direct lowering effect on HDL numbers.  The chemicals in cigarettes also encourage clotting of the blood.  These two tendencies paired together makes smoking a primary enemy of heart health.

Weight Loss

Excess body weight also tends to lower your HDL numbers.  For every little bit of weight you lose, however, your HDL rises.  Controlling your weight is a big responsibility when your cholesterol numbers are high.  By maintaining regular exercise, which helps raise HDL levels, and eating foods that encourage higher numbers of HDL, you would naturally shed a few pounds.

Exercise

As noted above, physical activity is beneficial to your HDL levels.  The approximate amount necessary to achieve a change is 30 minutes a day, five times a week.  The best type is aerobic exercise, which increases your heart rate.  Walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming are great options.  However, everyday activities like raking leaves and pushing your kids or grandkids in a stroller are also great options.

Choose Your Fat Right

Choosing the right types of fat can have a bit impact on your HDL levels.  Avoid trans fats, as these tend to be the worst for you.  Second to trans fats are other types of saturated fats.  For the most heart healthy fats, turn to monounsaturated fats, particularly olive oil.  Olive oil has natural healthy benefits, especially for your heart.

Omega-3’s

Another type of fat, omega-3’s, have been shown to be beneficial for heart health.  Fish oil, which contains two “acitve” forms of omega-3’s, have been shown in studies to increase HDL.  While the most potent forms of omega-3’s are found in open ocean fish like tuna and salmon, you can also fine Omega 3’s in plant products.  They’re most common in flaxseed and walnuts, but come in smaller amounts in other plant products, as well.

Niacin

Niacin is a type of B vitamin.  Niacin has been shown to consistenly increase HDL in clinical studies.  A form called hexaniacinate has been used in Europe to help with cholesterol levels.  This form has a lower incidence of side effects and is considered to be safer than regular niacin.  It can be taken in higher doses with giving a “flush” and itchy feeling.  Approximately 500mg given three times a day has been shown to be beneficial and can be tolerated by most people. 

Why is My Doctor So Set on Using Medications to Lower My Cholesterol?

Addressing the Issue

I will not pretend I know the answer to this question, but I can give some of my opinions on the matter.

Doctors for years have been telling us to eat right and exercise.  For most of those years we have taken a very American stance and asked them kindly to mind their own buisness and give us a pill.  Over time, I think they may have become tired of saying this and have slowed down or even stopped.  It is also possible that they don’t believe people are really going to do the work needed to make a change.  It’s hard to blame them, though, when you look at the lifestyles a lot of Americans enjoy today.

Doctors and Diets

Doctors do not normally receive extensive training in nutrition and diet.  Sometimes just a one day course or a one semester class is all that is required to graduate medical schools.  Registered dietitians are underutilized and the possibilities of lowering cholesterol naturally through diet has become almost impossible without properly trained help.  By working with your doctor, it can be possible to make lifestyle changes rather than take medication.  However, it will require a lot of work and more than a little outside help. 

The Changes You Make

The benefit of knowing our cholesterol numbers is that we can have insight into our cardiovascular health.  Knowing that our numbers are high should motivate us to make dramatic changes in our diet and lifestyle.  We may become motivated for a short time, but in the long run we often become complacent.  It is difficult to break free from the dependence on fast food and highly processed food.  Not only does it take time to prepare food but the processes of learning how to prepare healthy foods at home seems insurmountable.  With all the misinformation today it can be difficult to tell a good food from a bad food.  Taking care of yourself is an ongoing process, and is also a learning process.  If you keep an open mind and have determination, the lifestyle changes are possible.  However, you have to be able to do some homeword and stick with it.

So, You Just Found Out You Have High LDL Cholesterol

Understand the Importance of LDL Cholesterol

If you know someone who has suffered a heart attack or stroke, then the words “You have high LDL cholesterol” from your doctor may have some meaning to you. For the rest of us, the words “high cholesterol” may not conjure up many thoughts or images. Even if you know what cholesterol does in the body, it may not be self evident why high LDL cholesterol should be concerning. While having high cholesterol may not be a death sentence or a guarantee that we will be on medications for the rest of our lives, it does merit concern.

High cholesterol levels can lead to atherosclerosis, which in turn can lead to heart attack and stroke. Heart disease and stroke are the number 1 and number 3 causes of death in America. Heart attacks and stroke can cause some major problems to survivors, as well.  The aftermath can range from small debilitation, to major impairment, to death.

The Positive Power of Oats

All that being said, it is important to remember that atherosclerosis is a progressive state and needs to be addressed by consistent long term changes. There are many lifestyle and diet changes that are recommended to help stop your cholesterol from continuing to rise.  There are also a number of options that can be beneficial for lowering cholesterol. One of the main dietary changes being proclaimed today is the incorporation of soluble fiber from oats to the diet.

In clinical studies soluble fiber from whole oat products has been shown to lower cholesterol. The National Cholesterol Education Program wrote an authoritative document on cholesterol (ATP III).  It recommends dietary changes such as incorporating soluble fiber from oats, lower saturated fat intake and lower cholesterol intake.  It also covers weight management, medication, and other approaches to lowering cholesterol. This document covers a number of other dietary and lifestyle changes that are important to the high cholesterol issue.

Know the Facts

Becoming informed should be your first step in addressing high LDL cholesterol. Ask your doctor for all the information they have available to them.  Also ask about how you can influence your cholesterol through diet and lifestyle choices. Become familiar with organizations like the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program. We will also be diligent researchers and provide you with information that is both practical and accurate to help you on your journey to lower LDL cholesterol levels.  It’s our promise to do our best to keep you informed and to help you continue to live a full life, even after cholesterol test results.

Introduction to Cholesterol

The Ugly Truth

Many people are aware that heart disease is the number one killer in America.  Unfortunately, many do not realize that according to the World Health Organization at least 80% of premature deaths from cardiovascular heart disease and stroke could be prevented.  A healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoiding the use of tobacco are all steps in the right direction.  If you have found out you have high cholesterol and want to lower it naturally, you’re not alone.

The Natural Choice

Many people are using natural means to lower their cholesterol.  Sometimes we just need some help.  Help along the way to encourage us, answer confusing questions, and meet us where we are at.  The family here at Oathealth has walked alongside many extraordinary people that have had dramatic results in improving their health and lowering their cholesterol.

Know Both Sides of the Story

We agree with the most athoritative document on cholesterol in the US (ATP III).  It recommends dietary and lifestyle changes as a first line approach to high cholesterol.  Unfortunately, we’ve noticed that the money spent in support of a natural approach isn’t level with the amount spent promoting synthetic medication. Cholesterol medication advertisements are all over the media.  You hardly ever see ads encouraging adults to pass on an extra serving of beef or to walk a mile.  The natural approach is usually overlooked.  We want to offer some balance.

We Want You to Succeed!

At Oathealth.com we spend a lot of time pouring over research and authoritative documents.  The goal is to stay up-to-date, to make sure you offer you the best service  We want you to share in the insight we get from all the information available.  We want to simplify the information and terms associated with heart disease so it is in a language everyone can understand.  We want to equip you with information for your cholesterol lowering jouney.  The Oathealth.com Heart Health Blog has been created to make that easier.  This blog is our newest tool to stay connected to you.  We want you to succeed.  We want you to enjoy your meals without hurting your heart.  We want you to live your life to the fullest.  Hopefully, this blog can be just one more tool that helps bring you closer.