Bad Blood

In the last 4 years, I’ve lost almost 35lbs. I’ve done that by changing my diet to include less junk and more lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains and by running at least 3 times a week. I’ve recently added strength training to the list healthy things I do. So, it’s with these things in mind that I wonder what my cholesterol levels were 4 years ago.

I recently had a routine physical, which included blood work. Apparently, my total cholesterol is 244 (high risk) and my LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) is 162 (high, but not highest, risk) . Those levels should be below 200 and 100, respectively.

What the heck? There might be a hereditary component to this problem, but how much can that really account for? What more do I need to do to not be a future heart attack statistic?

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

13 thoughts on “Bad Blood

  1. Roz

    First question: Was it a fasting blood draw? That will affect results. What is your good Cholesterol (HDL)? If that is high then you may not have to worry as much….

    You probably are going to have to take an even closer look at your diet. Genetics can be extremely cruel. Case in point: I’ve done something at which we at work called the ‘Lenten Diet’ the last two years. I give up a lot (I will spare details, ask if you wish) . We actually do a cholesterol check before I start and right before I finish. Based on diet alone (I have been exercising a few times a week for about 6 months, so no changes there) I went from having high levels of total cholesterol, LDL, Triglycerides, to being within normal limits. After Lent ended I went back to eating a bit more like I did before (some changes are sticking). The total cholesterol went up, my HDL dropped…bad news again…..

    Oh, the fun things I learn working at the Cardiovascular Institute….

  2. Rob

    244, even with a great HDL, is still way too high.

    If you have been eating a low cholesterol diet, that may be causing the hypercholesterolemia. You have bacteria in your gut that produce cholesterol. If there isn’t enough cholesterol in your diet, some people’s bacteria can put in overtime and actually raise their cholesterol. Seriously. I know three people, all related, that take cholesterol medicines and don’t worry about cholesterol intake — it produces better results than low cholesterol diet and medicine together.

    Even if that’s what’s happening, chances are, you’ll only get your cholesterol down to 200 with an optimum diet.

    You’re probably looking at drugs. Sorry, chief.

    They pound mine down to about 100, with a 38. I don’t have the paradoxical gut bacteria — without drugs, my cholesterol is 180. As a diabetic, that’s way too high.

  3. Rob

    I’m not that familiar with the physiology of strength training. Having muscles means you have to feed them — food that might go to fat instead goes to feeding muscle. It might burn off cholesterol the same way, but I don’t know for sure.

    If you followed the cutoff recommendations, the test should be accurate. A repeat to check cholesterol might knock you down some, but they want your LDLs below 100 and your total below 200. Let’s say the test is off slightly. That would drop you from the high risk to borderline category, and you have no other risk factors. They might have you alter your diet further to see if your cholesterol can go below 200 that way, but if I were to bet….

  4. Emily

    My dad’s cholesterol levels were relatively high, and he began eating oatmeal daily. His cholesterol levels are down several points… Granted, you have farther to go, but oatmeal surely can’t hurt. (I didn’t mean that to sound like an ad for Quaker Oatmeal.)

    You are obviously eating healthy, but there are certain foods that are better than others at reducing cholesterol levels:

    244 is really high for someone who is eating healthy and running. Either the test was way off (unlikely, although you could always try again to be sure), or you are probably looking at the possibility of using drugs to lower your cholesterol levels.

  5. Mean Dean

    Well, kudos on the weight loss anyway! That’s an important improvent to your health and you would not be beefing (excuse the pun) about cholestoral w/the other issues the extra weight can bring.

    Having just lost 80 in a couple years, I feel your pain – and understand the frustration of having yet another hurdle.

    But I think there is some good advice here w/regards to taking a second look at diet, excersize and other not-so-much fun as ice-cream sundaes stuff.

  6. Jerry

    You may also wish to investigate increasing your niacin intake and also taking a fish oil supplement. Jacking up your fiber more couldn’t hurt either.

  7. Jerry

    Flax may not be quite as simple a substitute as it may appear. Fish oil may be superior in bringing down LDLs, as one paper that I found suggest.

    I looked in the first place because I know that while both flax and fish oil may have omega-3s, the specific omega-3’s in question are different. Linolenic acid from flax must be metabolized to form longer fatty acid chains that the body will use, such as DHA and EPA. This enzyme, as I recall, may not terribly efficient in humans. Fish kindly provide omega-3’s in those ready-to-use molecules.

    Funky: if you have high cholesterol, it may be prudent to prefer fish oil, as it seems to be more potent in this regard. It would be best to investigate this matter in greater depth, but if my relatives’ use of omega-3’s is any indication (at least one uses fish and flax, but uses more of the former), this concern seems to have some weight.

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