Monday, May 27, 2013

California Spidersaster

Back when hubby and I were fairly new, we decided to chuck it all in a U-Haul truck (something I would never do again--it's Penske all the way these days) and move to SoCal.  While it took us a few months to find the good hiking spots (we definitely found some BAD ones), we did finally settle into a beautiful routine of hiking and camping in the Cucamonga Wilderness Area.

Hang on, let me back up.

Hubby hates spiders.  So do I.  In fact, one night, while still living in Utah, we were terrorized until the wee hours by a wolf spider who climbed into bed with us and decided to scuttle and prod.  When we scrambled out of bed, he ducked between the mattress and the box springs and we waited hours for him to venture out far enough for killing.

Okay, fast-forward (back up) to the Cucamonga Wilderness.

Hubby (then boyfriend) and I were hiking about when I decided to scramble up a steep embankment to see what was up there.  Upon achieving the summit, I discovered the largest tarantula I'd ever seen--and I'd seen some pretty big ones.  You see, Mr. Anderson, my heart-breaking fifth grade teacher, had "pet" tarantulas he would bring in and allow us to handle.  So, to me, tarantulas were somehow different from "real" spiders.  My brain didn't class them with widows, recluses, or wolves.  So it was with great excitement that I yelled down the slope, "Hey!  Hey, check it out, come here!  Hurry!"

He hurried!  He was eager, excited--what magical treasure had his girlfriend found?

When I brought him in close for a good look, understand I wasn't being mean.  I wasn't.  I wasn't trying to freak him out or otherwise test his bladder control.  I was really excited to show him something cool.  His reaction?

Not quite what I was hoping for.

He gasped.  He goggled.  He nearly cartwheeled backward, arms pinwheeling.

He nearly went backwards right over the edge and down the embankment.

And he wouldn't speak to me for over an hour.

I finally said, "I really didn't mean to do that--I'm sorry.  I didn't think you'd freak out."

His response?  "You know I freak out on LITTLE spiders, but you didn't think a GIANT, HAIRY, 100 TIMES THE SIZE SPIDER would be a problem?"

No.  No, I didn't.  What can I say?

To hear him tell it, it happened just like this.

So, I've been conducting something of an experiment.  You see, last year, my doctor (such as she is) got on me for my cholesterol and vitamin D.  Specifically, she wanted to throw drugs at me--a statin for the cholesterol, and mega-massive doses of vitamin D (somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 IU).  I refused both.

The vitamin D I refused because my vitamin D sits at around 28 ng/ml, which is considered "insufficient" but not "deficient."  30+ is considered normal.  Megadosing isn't recommended in folks with levels above 21.  In fact, they've been found to do more harm (especially in the whole cardiac area) than good.  She argued, and I said, "I can cite my sources.  Can you cite yours?"  I then dug through my bag and pulled out the articles I'd printed out for her.  She gave a cursory glance, then said, "These don't really apply to you."  I said, "I'm 47 years old and have a level well above 21.  Why don't they apply?"  She said, "It's complicated."  I said, "I'm wicked smart, have 7 years of college under my belt, including most of the various biomed core and pharmacology classes--try me.  If you confuse me, I'll let you know and you can use smaller words."

She demurred.

On the statins, I found no reason to even consider taking them.  My LDL is 130, which isn't "optimal," but also isn't horrifying.  My HDL is low (33).  Statins do almost NOTHING for HDL--the best I could hope for is a 2-5% rise.  2-5% of 33?  Not worth the potential risk to my liver.  And Niacin/Nicotinic acid?  Absolutely contraindicated in folks like me with arrhythmias.  So, no.


Besides, newer research is showing that it's not the HDL that scrubs out those blood vessels and protects against heart disease.  No, it's the activities that lead to higher levels of HDL.  Folks genetically predisposed to have higher levels of HDL?  Have no decrease in heart disease.  In other words, the link between heart health and HDL is correlative, not causal.  It's actually pretty fascinating stuff.  If my doc is anything like the other GPs/PCPs I've had, she'll clue into this in five years or so.

It occurred to me last month that, instead of bracing myself for the huge battle coming up (less than two weeks off now), I should just . . . change it.

That's right, I should just change my lipid profile, I should just change my vitamin D.  

And so I've had no red meat, no pork, chicken, or other poultry in a month.  Fish twice a week (fatty fish like tuna, sword fish, and haddock), increased fruits and veggies, increased nut consumption, exercise five days a week (35-55 minutes a day), plus fish oil (filtered for mercury), garlic, and plant sterols and stanols.  I take a vitamin D supplement (yes, the right kind), and I keep trying to remember to get ten or so minutes of sun every day, but that one's hard to remember.  

Oh, and I've been eating 50-70 mg a day of 70% or higher dark chocolate, no Dutch processing, no alkalizing, no processed sugars or added oils.  It's been trial and error--my first dark chocolate bar? Green & BLECH 85%.  Yikes!

When I get my results back, I'll let you know if there's been a change.  If there hasn't been?

Well, at least I've been eating better, right?  I've lost 16 pounds since April 6th.

Oh, and the "no meats but seafood" gig.  Apparently, that's called "pescetarianism."  "Pesce" meaning fish, like "Pisces."  And it's recognized as a very healthy way to eat.  And here I thought I was being original.


Speaking of fresh fruits and vegetables?  Two words:  Farmer's Market.  If you've got one, do that.  We bought thirty pounds of produce (plus a cookie, a brownie, and two live potted lavenders) for 60 bucks.  Think about it--that's less than two bucks a pound for produce.  That's not bad.  All that, with fresh air, nice people, and live Mississippi Delta blues.  Can't beat that with a stick.


Dinner tonight was grilled swordfish (which the boy liked!), grilled peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash, steamed sugar snap peas, and roasted butternut.  Holy cow.  It was an awful lot of good.  Tomorrow night?  Wild rice-stuffed red bell pepper and tomato with mushroom ragout over top.  With steamed green beans and almond slivers and a nice, big salad.  I really do think that, in order to make these changes take, I have to take the time and effort to actually know what I'm eating.

Here's a pic of dinner:  

Speaking of fancy food pictures and knowing what I'm eating, I want to be eating this.  Soon.

Isn't that amazing-looking?  It's also a LINK to a wonderful site with the recipe!

Browsing Facebook tonight to find that someone on my friend's list has taken a cell phone shot of a gun in her hand and posted it.  Like it's cool.  Like it's a toy.  Something I'd expect a teenage banger wannabe to do.  I was embarrassed for her.  And of her.  Hey, I own guns.  They're not toys.  They're not something to be bragged about and shown off and played with.  Grow the hell up.  

Note the manicure.  Because we all know how important that is.

And that's all.  This one took a long time to put together.  It was the hubby Photoshop. Lot of work for a spider story.   


  1. Nice work on the spider photoshop.
    I'm interested to hear how your doctor's visit goes. I did the same thing with my cholesterol a couple of years ago, because I just didn't want to take yet another drug. I didn't go at it as carefully as you are, but my levels were only slightly elevated, so I just focused on eating more veggies, more fiber, and things that claimed to help with cholesterol, such as oat bran. I reduced my meat intake, and ate things like avocados and nuts to increase my "good" cholesterol. It helped, the next doctor's visit my levels were "normal" again. But I haven't been getting tested regularly so I don't know how I'm doing now. My lovely insurance, which covers prescriptions and doctor's visits, does not cover any kind of tests. I just can't afford to worry about it, but I CAN afford to eat right, and I'm going to refocus my efforts. You've inspired me. Thank you.

  2. My numbers aren't horrific--in fact, the LDL would be normal if I weren't diabetic. The HDL, they're finding, isn't as important as the behaviors that go into raising HDL, i.e., it's the exercise, the fish, the veggies, the whole grains that protect your heart, not the resulting HDL increase. If that makes sense. I'm glad I've inspired you!