Reflections From Nan: Six Months To Sixty

Even though my 60th birthday is a little over 6 months away, I am planning now for better health, mental acuity, energy, and sense of well-being!  My goal is to improve all of the test results that I have previously had at Forum Health Knoxville. You may remember that I did a Telomere test several months ago –  a fascinating test revealing how rapidly one ages relative to a normal population. Those results showed that I was above average for my age range; however, there was definitely room for improvement!


For my birthday countdown, I have chosen to begin with a detailed cardiac evaluation measuring specific markers in my blood. My total cholesterol has always been slightly elevated; however, over 50 percent of patients hospitalized with acute myocardial infarctions had normal lipid levels as defined by the traditional blood tests. Functional medicine has identified over 400 risk factors, but they are all exacerbated with inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune dysfunction (chronic infections).


Cholesterol is not the villain portrayed in the statin commercials! It is a biological necessity for creating vitamin D, our steroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as other tasks. High levels are not a sure sign of cardiac disease, nor are low levels a promise of heart health. Our bodies manufacture most of our cholesterol with a smaller amount coming from the food we eat.


Since cholesterol has to travel through the blood which is watery, the body packages it in various “containers” called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins vary according to the amount of protein, fat, and cholesterol they contain. Those with more protein and less fat/cholesterol are called high density lipoproteins or HDL.  Those with less protein and more fat/cholesterol are called low density lipoproteins or LDL. A third type carries even more cholesterol and fat with less protein and it is called very low density lipoprotein or VLDL.


The LPP test measures not only the type but also the number and size of all these particles. LDL has at least five types and sizes. The smallest size is the most dangerous while the largest size is least harmful. Obviously the number of these particles is also a risk factor. Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a) is a type that increases risk of heart disease. Apolipoprotein B (Apo-B) deposits cholesterol in the artery wall which can be a marker for atherosclerosis. HDL is similar in that the larger size is the most protective.


So what did my test reveal and how can I get healthier? 


First of all, my inflammatory markers – C (reactive protein, insulin, and homocysteine) were all in the normal ranges; however, the latter was borderline for being too high. My total number of LDL particles was elevated but the sizes were in the normal range. However, my Apo-B was borderline which meant I have a risk for atherosclerosis. My VLDL and my Lp(a) were normal. Whew!


With these results and several inflammatory markers from a recent ION Panel – my plan includes the following:

  1. Reduce inflammation with Omega 3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that this will also increase my levels of HDL, increase LDL particle size, and decrease LDL particle number.
  2. Drink more green tea which will decrease oxidation of LDL, decrease Apo-B secretion, and increase HDL
  3. Increase consumption of Vitamin E (which I get in a customized vitamin mix) to reduce Apo-B and lower LDL and increase HDL.
  4. Add Niacin (B vitamin) to lower LDL particle number and Apo-B as well as increase HDL.
  5. Stop smoking (just wanted to see who is still reading this!)  I don’t smoke, but I can always improve my diet with less refined carbohydrates.
  6. Have an occasional glass of red wine which will increase the powerful antioxidant, resveratrol. This has been proven to reduce LDL oxidation, decrease inflammation, and improve the lining of cardiac vessels. Another way to obtain this is with red grapes and purple grape juice (but be careful on the sugar content).
  7. Exercise during the cold months. I love to be outside. But now that the weather is getting colder, I have made a commitment to go to the gym after work. I’m fine once I get there, but I’ll need some accountability to be consistent. Feel free to ask me!
  8. Continue with other cardiac tests. Forum Health Knoxville will be getting a Heart Rate Variability Test which every patient will have access to.
  9. Find joy every day and keep stress levels in balance. Studies have shown that heart disease is linked to depression.
  10. Retest my cardiac markers in May, 2013!


Helen Keller said “life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” May we live this one life with hearts full of gratitude and wonder for the countless blessings our Creator has lavished on us!


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