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"You’re on a fast road to an early death."

Me?  Was my doctor talking about me?  The same guy who won track medals at his town’s annual 4th of July open track meet?  The guy who set a sit-up record in Junior High and was invited to the track team in high school?  The guy who ditched more conventional sports for Ultimate Frisbee, and then went on to win a World Championship in Oslo and ended up in the Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame?

WHEE (Weight, Health, Eating and Exercise) is a community support diary for Kossacks who are currently or planning to start losing, gaining or maintaining their weight through diet and exercise or fitness. Any supportive comments, suggestions or positive distractions are appreciated. If you are working on your weight or fitness, please -- join us! You can also click the WHEE tag to view all diary posts.

Join me on the flip side....

How did I end up in this situation?  The athletic guy with the runner’s body who used to be me was now just some middle aged, balding, overweight guy with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugars, and high triglycerides.  While still in shock, I heard my doctor – who is not particularly fond of drugs – go on and on about all the prescriptions he was writing – one for this symptom, one for that, one for the other, their potential side effects; and then other medicines to counteract the side effects, and on and on.

As he ended, however, he added one hopeful statement: "I think you could probably overcome all of this with weight loss and a good diet."

Nine months later I was forty pounds lighter, off almost all of medications, and within a normal range for each of the symptoms I described above (although, maddeningly, my thinning hair didn’t change).  I felt healthier, slept better (my wife told me I’ve stopped snoring), and retained a nice bounce in my step.

It has been said that only five percent of those who want to seriously diet are able to stay on their diet for a substantial length of time.

Does nine months count as "substantial length of time"?  I'm not sure -- but if it is, then I made it into the five percent.

How did I do that?

I'd like to write a series of diaries that explain what I did and my approach -- and to share my experiences and things I've learned along the way.

For now, however, rather than continue to talk about me, I want to pass on a useful health alert

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrom is not a disease -- rather, it's a description of symptons.  It's often described as a combination of five risk factors: abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure.  I had all five.

Luckily for me, my wife (and my doctor) hassled me to get a physical after I turned 50, and I had a standard battery of blood tests run which revealed my problems.  These problems -- other than looking fat around my stomach -- were all hidden.  I didn't see any ill-effects from high cholesterol or sugar; my blood pressure, although high enough to damage my body, didn't effect me in any noticeable way.

The American Heart Association says that nearly 50 million Americans have it.  And -- as my doctor told me -- this is something that can kill you. People with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, vascular disease, and type 2 diabetes – for starters.  

The American Heart Association notes the following:

According to the ATP III criteria, metabolic syndrome is identified by the presence of three or more of these components:

   * Central obesity as measured by waist circumference:
         o Men — Greater than 40 inches
         o Women — Greater than 35 inches
   * Fasting blood triglycerides greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL
   * Blood HDL cholesterol:
         o Men — Less than 40 mg/dL
         o Women — Less than 50 mg/dL
   * Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg
   * Fasting glucose greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL

My public service announcement is simply this: if your waist circumference exceeds 40 (for men) or 35 (for women) inches then run, don't walk, to your doctor, nurse, or other health care profession, and inquire about this.  Make sure you know your cholesterol levels, glucose levels, and triglyceride levels.  If they exceed the numbers noted above, you need to do something about it.  Now.  To say that "your life depends on it", may sound overdramatic, but it's, quite literally, true.

(Insurance tip: when my doctor did my blood tests, insurance didn't cover a whole lot, and I paid an arm and a leg.  When I got re-tested, I went to another company -- in my case "LabCorp" -- that was a "preferred provider" -- and I saved a lot of money.  It was a hassle, because I had to make a separate appointment on a different day in a different place -- but as I've been tested about even two months, the savings has been significant).

(end of the public service announcement)

I hope to talk more about how I successfully battled my weight and health problems in future diaries.

UPDATE: Housekeeping: Please leave a comment if you would like to volunteer to write a diary.

      Upcoming WHEE diaries:

      September 25 

            Fri AM - Ed G

            Fri PM - Brimi
      September 26 

            Sat AM - ??? 

            Sat PM - Edward Spurlock (Kessler, Ch. 9)
      September 27 

            Sun AM - louisev - Turtle Diary 

            Sun PM - 1864 House
      September 28 

            Mon AM - NC Dem 

            Mon PM - sychotic1
      September 29

            Tues AM - Clio2 (Kessler, Ch. 10) 

            Tues PM - ???
      September 30
            Weds AM - Edward Spurlock
            Weds PM - ???
      October 1
            Thurs AM - A DC Wonk
            Thurs- PM ??

Originally posted to A DC Wonk on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 04:20 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Congratulations for taking control (13+ / 0-)

    of your health. Nine months IS a substantial length of time. Thanks for the information. I'm looking forward to your future diaries and to joining you in the 5% club.

    I used to wonder why somebody didn't do something, then I realized I am somebody.- unknown

    by Brimi on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 04:28:28 AM PDT

  •  I'm glad you were able to bring about some (15+ / 0-)

    improvement.  Interesting how your doctor added the one thing that was actually helpful as an afterthought at the end.  As usual he got it backward.  He should have told you to smarten up at the beginning, then describe the polypharmacological hell that awaited you after six months if you couldn't be bothered.  Metabolic syndrome is caused in the main by excessive sugar intake.  What was your before and after sugar intake like?

    Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow

    by peterborocanuck on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 04:32:50 AM PDT

    •  It might have been the right way around - he (9+ / 0-)

      had probably heard or thought "lose weight" lots of times. By starting with the meds, the doctor raised his alert level and probably got some adrenalin flowing - and then to hear, "But you can probably avoid this!" came in an entirely fresh light.

      •  could be. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama, Clio2, ebbv, cdkipp, trs

        I've seen too many doctors who sit listening with pen in hand resting on a prescription pad and heard too many stories of iatrogenic complications, I suppose.  Not nearly enough doctors  describe poor eating in the correct terms or give the correct weight to the patient's responsibility to affect their own health status by effecting some simple and sustainable changes.  It's far easier and fits in much better with the 15 minute appointment model to just prescribe.  I had to change primary care doctors several times before I found one who even began to take a holistic approach.  Many will make a pretense of doing so, but lip service is not effective.

        Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow

        by peterborocanuck on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 06:32:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wee Mama has got it right in this case (10+ / 0-)

          Indeed, my levels had been somewhat high and been creeping higher for years, and he'd been on my case to shape up for years.

          But (and, recall, I already know that this Doc almost never views Rx's as a first strategy) it was his attitude of "ok, guy, you can't do it you're way, you're going to have to go the prescription route", and he started going down the list: Lipitor for cholesterol, there may be bad side effects of x, y, and z; Vasotec for blood pressure, there may be bad side effects of x, y, and z.  Slow-Niacin to boost the good cholesterol, but you need to start low, because often there are bad side effects of x, y, and z.  And on and on he went.  And, again, I've been with him 20 years and I knew he'd rather not be going down the Rx path.

          Interestingly (and I'll get to it in future diaries) -- I got some of the bad effects from each one!

          But, the good news is that I am already off all the Rx's except one.

          My point is that what shook me up was his change of tack from: "dieting will improve this" to "you have to start taking these drugs starting today, and if you diet you might be able to stop taking them in the future"

          That, and the message of "you're on a fast path to an early death" -- that finally woke me up.

    •  before and after sugar intake? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Clio2, cdkipp, trs

      I'm afraid I don't have any measurements of intake or anything else (other than weight, and the results from the blood tests which started this whole thing) from "before".

      I can tell you, though, that I ate like a voracious horse (well, two horses).  I'm sure my intake was huge.  Further, while I was trying to maintain my weight (in the "before" time period), I ignorantly tried to eat only two meals per day, making my meals even larger, and really messing up my blood sugar/insulin levels.

      My Hemaglobin A1C was 9.7 in February, it was 5.9 at the end of July.  (My limited understanding is that "over 7" is bad and puts one at an increased risk of all kinds of bad things and "under 6" is where people want to be).

  •  Great job on getting healthier (10+ / 0-)

    and thanks for reaching out to others. I came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that I could do more for my own health than any doctor.  I pretty much eliminated meat from my diet, stopped the snacks, lost some weight and got into more regular exercise.  I got my blood pressure and cholesterol down and got off the high blood pressure medication.  I am still on this road and I have a way to go.  But it can be done.  A few months ago I found a resource that is really helping me--I joined the Jillian Micheals program.  It's an online community focused on exercise and weight loss and it costs around $16 month--for me less than the copay on one prescription! It has pushed me to work out much more strenuously than I thought I could and I am seeing definite results.  There are a lot of message boards on the site for various groups so it's easy to find other people who are going through the same journey.

  •  just checking in (10+ / 0-)

    not a good day today, awful insomnia last night. But I am looking forward to my monthly vegan potluck tonight, assuming I can stay awake that long. It is nice to go t a potluck where I know for certain I can eat everything.

    So glad this series is here.

  •  What an awesome diary... (9+ / 0-)

    and an even more awesome story.  it's amazing what we can do with a little knowledge and desire.  i had never heard of Metabolic Syndrome, but I am scheduled for some blood work next week, so I'll be on the look out.

    Keep that "bounce in your step"... and keep writing... look forward to hearing more about your journey.

    The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me' MT 25:40

    by Ed G on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 05:32:26 AM PDT

    •  thank you so much (for your support) (8+ / 0-)

      yes, you are right . . . it is amazing what we can do with a little knowledge and desire.

      And I never heard of metabolic syndrome either.  In fact, my doctor never mentioned it!  (Not that it mattered -- it's not a disease, just a label for a group of symptoms).

      Yes -- if you (or anyone) are scheduled for blood work, compare your levels.  My levels have, apparently, been killing-me-slowly without me ever knowing it.  I'm so thankful that I'm reversing it.

      And thanks (to you and to everybody) for the moral support.  Because of everybody's comments, I will try to write weekly for a while.

  •  Great information and diary. (11+ / 0-)

       I think the men's waist size is most often listed as 40 or above rather than above 40. The hip/waist ratio is often a good determinent on health.

       About two years ago when I went in to my new doctor (hadn't been to a Dr for 10 years before that visit), we discussed taking some meds for blood pressure. At that time my pressure was 140/95 and it was just when I decided I had to get more healthy. I refused the meds then and began to lose weight, exercise, eat more healthy (although it wasn't too bad before), and researched options for meds. After much reading and talking with others I trusted, I began to take daily supplements of l-arginine. They normally come in 500 and 1000 mg doses. I began slowly and moved up to 2000 mg per day for a short period of 2-3 months. I have since dropped back to 1000 mg per day.

      My BP now averages 115/80 and I check it almost weekly at a local pharmacy station that has their equipment calibrated every other month. Part of the drop certainly came from lifestyle changes and my weight loss but I still feel that the l-arginine helped because even now if I stop taking the pills for a week my BP will quickly move back to 130/90.

      At age 60, the l-arginine also helps helps in other issues since it basically restores flexibility in very small blood vessels throughout the body and thus the drop in BP. I am not a Doc nor am I associated in any way with the vitamin/supplement industry.

      My son who has also lost some weight although he started much smaller than me bought me a package of slacks, jeans, and shirts that were now too big for him. Although I sarted at 40/42 waistline almost three years ago, I can now comfortably wear 36"'s and often wear jeans in 34's. My goal is to get back to 32"'s where I was when I graduated college some 38 years ago.

  •  Metabolic syndrome is a major player - thanks for (8+ / 0-)

    bringing it up. Sometimes we need the motivation of the dark side to get us moving toward the brighter one.

  •  Congratulations and thanks for the diary! (n/t) (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sychotic1, Clio2, ebbv, Ed G, cdkipp, trs
  •  Off topic question... (5+ / 0-)

    has anybody heard from Sheddhead lately?  I haven't seen her online in a while and am kinda concerned.

    (-9.25, -6.62) (BWIU #22) Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both -- Benjamin Franklin

    by trs on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 06:47:14 AM PDT

  •  Great informative diary..Success in progress (7+ / 0-)

    stories always welcome.

    One thing not mentioned in your doctor's definition of metabolic syndrome, which really gives meaning to the name, is insulin resistance. This is a pre-diabetes condition and actually change in the body chemistry.  

    Insulin resistance is a separately recognized condition and can appear before the other physical symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome. The rise in the condition is associated with the constant bombardment of our bodies insulin receptors with high levels of glucose and extreme glucose spikes from highly processed foods and high fructose corn syrup. Insulin enables the cells to take in glucose from the bloodstream but when these cells become resistant it takes more and more insulin. This cycles leads to all kinds of problems and can be found in many obese, often lethargic and depressed people, who feel they have tried everything to lose weight.

    •  insulin resistance . . . (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clio2, cdkipp, trs

      Thanks for bringing this up.  I'm still a bit unclear about how all this works (i.e., how much of it is a cause, and how much of it is the body changing because of what we eat, how much is a feedback loop, etc.)  I need to read more about it.

      But, you're right, it's an important aspect to throw into the mix (and was important to my medical case).

      Another item I hope to cover in future diaries is exactly what you described.  Part of my plan for losing weight is that I eat 5-6 small meals a day, whereas for the past 15 years I've been eating 2 meals a day!  THe immediate reason for doing so is that I'm less hungry eating 5-6 small meals a day, and so I can eat less.  But the more important reason, as you mention, is that 2 large meals a day wreaks havoc on the body's blood sugar levels, contributing to the insulin problem.

  •  Morning Whee Whees! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clio2, ebbv, Ed G, cdkipp, trs

    or Wheebles.

    Still plugging away and eating right.  I have almost completely given up coffee, but don't cheer, because I have replaced it with two cups of tea a day.  Not that coffee is bad (except I used to drink the equivalent of 10 cups a day) but I couldn't live without the artificial sweetener/lightener with tons of HFCS added.  So, now all I add to the tea is honey.

    One change at a time...when and if I learn how to like coffee again, I may switch back.

    Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

    by Sychotic1 on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 07:06:39 AM PDT

  •  Congratulations! (6+ / 0-)

    I definitely think 9 months qualifies as a substantial length of time.  I've been on mine for about 8 months and have gone from pushing the limits of a 42" waist to under 36" now and continuing to drop.  Even more important than looking better is feeling better.  Before I started watching my intake and getting exercise I felt like a veal calf all the time.  Just completely lethargic.  Now I have more energy, sleep better and just generally feel better.

    My weight loss was motivated entirely internally.  My job doesn't offer health insurance and I can't afford it, so I haven't seen a doctor in 10+ years, and unless there's an affordable public option, I probably won't any time soon, so I'm having to monitor and take care of myself completely on my own.  While I'm sure the idiotic Glenn Becks out there would applaud that, it's actually a really stupid and dangerous thing to be doing, but I don't have much choice.

  •  Nine months is great! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clio2, cdkipp

    And in another three months, you'll be eligible for the National Weight Control Registry. Stay on target!

  •  Great diary (0+ / 0-)

    and wonderful story. Thanks for taking the time to share it. I am late, but always enjoy reading the WHEE diaries and comments. This series is wonderful!

  •  welcome to (0+ / 0-)

    WHEE. Great diary and looking forward to hear more about your journey.

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