Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I went for some blood tests yesterday as I have my six-monthly diabetes review next week. One of the things that has been slightly bothering me since all this started just over a year ago is that I’ve never been told the full details of my ‘lipid profile’. This shows the levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol, plus the triglyceride levels, whereas all I have received in the past is my ‘total’ cholesterol level. Ideally, a person with diabetes should try and maintain a total cholesterol level of 4 or less (for non-diabetics the level is below 5). Having high cholesterol is thought to put you at greater risk of arterial and heart disease. However, it is important to know how that total is made up as it comprises two components, one of which is beneficial to your health, one of which is not. It’s quite possible that you could have a low total, but too much of the ‘bad’ LDL.

The only reliable way to discover the split is to have blood taken after a 12 hour fast. Fasting will also allow accurate measurement of another potentially harmful substance called triglycerides. To this end, I marked my test report as ‘fasting’, and fasted accordingly, drinking only water from 9 pm until the blood was taken at 10 am the following day. Hopefully, I won’t get into trouble for this, but I felt it was important to know what the full details were so that I can determine if I need to do anything about my diet if the bad numbers are too high. I would also like to know if it is really necessary for me to be taking daily statins, drugs that help lower total cholesterol. If they’re having the effect of lowering my ‘good’ cholesterol, then they’re not actually helping me!

Cholesterol’s not as simple as at first you may believe,
‘Your total should be less than 4 – that’s what you should achieve!’
But what about the split of it, the so-called ‘good’ and ‘bad’?
If good’s too low and bad’s too high, then maybe you’ve been had!

There’s HDL that’s good for you, and helps to keep you well,
But LDL is bad for you as far as they can tell.
It helps fur up your arteries – that’s not to be desired,
For arteries in furry coats are not to be admired!

But how to find this magic split? A fasting test is needed…
No food nor drink must pass your lips, a rule which must be heeded.
Then LDL and HDL and bad triglyceride,
Will be exposed for all to see, with nowhere left to hide!

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