A Dietitian's Confession
Yes, I have a confession to make. Many think dietitians eat perfect all the time and I would like to say that most of the time I am good about having a balanced meal that includes fruits and vegetables, I drink water most of the time, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen making food from scratch, and I do not eat much fast food. Therefore, many would say that I do fit the stereotype for dietitians. I also exercise at least 5 days per week. I am not going to lie, I admit, I love chocolate (especially mixed with peanut butter) and I have other splurges as well. My confession is that I take a medication to lower my cholesterol. I am sharing this with you because in today’s society there is judgement by others if you are taking a medication for something that is reportedly cured by lifestyle. When I was in my late 20’s and some of my cholesterol numbers were starting to get higher than desired I made a few tweaks to my diet, hoped it was a fluke, and went about my life. Medication would not have been an option at that time because I was hoping to start a family. After I was finished with pregnancy and nursing I decided it was time to get my numbers checked again and they were high, especially my LDL (my bad cholesterol). I was 37 years old. At the time I still felt I was eating healthy and I was regularly exercising. I started the medication and also tweaked my diet again. After 6 months my cholesterol was almost too low on the medicine and I was getting ready to train for a ½ marathon so my doctor told me to stop the medication. When I had my labs drawn after being off the medication and after running a ½ marathon and continued healthy eating, my numbers went back up. My doctor and I decided I should go on ½ the dose of the prescribed statin, and that is what I remain on today.
I share this with you because when you look at the lifestyle risk factors for heart disease they are poor eating habits, inactivity, smoking, and increased alcohol consumption. I had none of these and historically had low blood pressure, therefore, with my family history being my only risk factor (there is a strong presence of early heart disease in one side of my family) medication was the option. Being on a cholesterol lowering medication does not make me want to give up the lifestyle that I live. I still choose healthy foods and maintain activity. I will admit that I do try to add new foods to my diet that may help naturally lower my cholesterol and improve heart health. Some of these things include, eating at least 1 plant-based meal per day, taking fish oil supplements, including increased whole grains, and eating less meat. In the last few years it seems that no matter what I have tried to tweak about diet, my numbers are the same. On the medication the numbers are within a normal range, I lead a very active lifestyle, and I keep reminding myself that this very low dose of medication is really not something to be ashamed of. It is true that many can change their lifestyle to help with risk factors for disease, but be careful of making blanket statements about those that need medications to control those risk factors.