Monthly Archives: May 2008

All about cholesterol

Cholesterol: Don’t know what it is, but it’s bad stuff, right? Not exactly. The house with the add-ons

Cholesterol is a type of waxy lipid – a fat. Thus, it doesn’t dissolve in water, and it makes a great barrier (along with other fats) for each and every cell membrane in our body. So it’s a divider. But wait, it’s also a uniter (it plays both sides against the middle. It can’t help itself). We use cholesterol to make bile, and without bile, you can’t digest fat. It’s an emulsifier. That means it brings fat and water together (think salad dressing – the oil and other stuff are held together with emulsifiers. You’ll see if you read the package. Be not afraid). Anyway, bile gobbles up fat and holds it in droplets where enzymes can come along and break it down so we can cushion our organs, insulate ourselves and scream about the efficient fat storehouse that is our rear end.

Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Consume or make too much cholesterol, pack on the pounds by eating too much fat, or lose weight too quickly, and you could make some crunchy little gallstones. Gallstones are made of cholesterol. If you have a gallstone, you suddenly have no trouble at all locating this organ: It’s tucked right under the liver on the right hand side. Sometimes this necessitates removing the gallbladder. When the gallbladder is removed, the liver still makes bile and you can still digest fat.
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The what-what on LDL/HDL (that’s your blood lipids)

Usually we find out what the heck LDL and HDL are when we got to the doctor and we find out that the annual blood test we sweated through (okay I’m projecting but who loves it) showed that we’ve got an artery full of LDL and not enough HDL.

If our LDL levels are high enough, the doctor will prescribe a statin to lower them, and for many people these drugs are a godsend. However, if you can do without them, you should. But how do you know if you can do without statins if you don’t know what LDL is, let alone how to lower it? Or raise HDL, whatever that is? That’s when people usually get the “LDL is bad cholesterol, HDL is good cholesterol” rap and sent on their way (with pills). LDL causes heart disease — bloody true, but is that really enough information? Not if you need to make dietary changes.

My friend and neighbor Phyllis just celebrated her 81st birthday, and on that day related to me that the doctor had found just such a thing (to not need a statin before you’re 81 is akin to a miracle) and the doctor prescribed simvastatin (same stuff John McCain takes). She takes a tiny dose, and her cholesterol is only a tad high — lucky her. But when you’re on a statin to lower your cholesterol output, you have to make sure to have your blood tested every few months to be sure your liver enzymes are humming along (and to make sure the stuff is working). So what are LDL and HDL anyway? Phyllis wanted to know, so I’m guessing you might too:

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Adorable cuteness from  Now get packing!Today we made our monthly trek to the rather large, cavernous, favorite, horrible, boring mall. My child loves the place, but with its wide expanse and those tiny legs needing to see every remote corner from end to end, I pack like we’re going on holiday.

Because even though the place is huge, it has very little nutritious food.

With gas soaring over the $4 mark in L.A., and food prices rocketing, it also pays to pack a bag. Here’s what was in ours: Continue reading

Oh hell, let’s get it started

I’ve been staring at my feet for a couple of days, not sure where to begin.

I went to the eye doctor today — no ordinary eye doctor, but my man at UCLA, where I’ve had to go since I was 10 because I had pesky muscular issues. My point is, the man is high end, interns falling at his feet, residents hanging on every word. But I’ve known him since I came in with my arms crossed and informed him that I was not going to have surgery again because the first time entirely sucked (vomiting continuously on my mother’s 27th birthday while she tried not to cry, only to be told that the surgery didn’t really work? Hell, no). He put up with me, and I with him, and he held off surgery for 25 more years, then performed literal magic after all those years of practice (and an IV loaded with anti-nausea meds). So he’s no dummy is my point.

I hadn’t seen him in a while, and he asked me what I was doing these days. Every time someone finds out that I know something about nutrition, the next thing out of their mouth is a question about nutrition. As a result, telling anyone that I know a damned thing is a bit like throwing a small grenade – I let the cat out of the bag and wince waiting to see what the question will be and whether I’ll be able to answer it off the cuff to prove my encyclopedic intelligence. (Which I don’t really have but which seems necessary to gain people’s trust because of the high level of total nonsense out there).

So he asked me: Is a raw diet really good for you? This was a funny question coming from this 60+ year old, very reserved man. Continue reading