When Health Care Providers don’t interpret labs correctly
In 2008 I was 58 years old. I worked part-time as a family nurse practitioner. I made it a point to walk every day. I ate, for the most part, a standard American diet. I probably watched calories more than the quality of the food I ate. I may have been counting points.
I had metabolic syndrome and no one told me.
I probably had it for years as my blood pressure started creeping up in the late 1990s. I thought it was just stress, and it may have been.
What is metabolic syndrome? According to Mayo Clinic,
“Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels”
I was on blood pressure medicine. My waste is always thick because I have scoliosis so waster circumference is not accurate. But, my fasting blood sugar was 96 (this is technically within the normal range but below 90 is optimal). My A1C was 6.2.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH)
“A1C test measures the amount of hemoglobin with attached glucose and reflects your average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months.”
This is clearly prediabetic. Optimal is less than 5.4. My liver enzymes were on the high side of normal so I already had some liver involvement. My cholesterol was OK except my HDL was only 46. Today optimal is 60 or higher.
I was never told I was prediabetic. The only family member I had (he is now deceased) who was diabetic was my uncle. But, my mom’s side of the family tended to have some pudge.
Fast forward to 2010. I was 60 years old. My cholesterol not is over 200 but that in itself is not terrible. My LDL is 146. They don’t check particle sizes so who knows what that really means. Triglycerides and HDL are great so no one is concerned. And that in itself is OK. But my fasting blood sugar is now 99 and my A1C is 5.7. I now have another elevated liver enzyme.
Is anyone seeing a trend here?
In 2011, I had some additional labs drawn due to a splash injury at work. So, it was good to know that I didn’t have Hepatitis or HIV, but that liver enzyme was now higher. They did one additional test and it pointed to the gallbladder. Ok! I wasn’t symptomatic so whatever.
This time I took matters into my own hands and discovered that if I took Milk Thistle, my liver should behave itself. So, I did and it did. 6 months later my liver function tests were normal and have been ever since.
So, everything is cool, right? Wrong.
Fast forward 4 years to 2015. Routine labs are drawn. My total cholesterol is 229 and my LD is 161. Still no particle size so what does this mean. Quite frankly I didn’t know squat about particle sizes at that time. I had a larger concern. I got a phone call from the provider’s office saying that my cholesterol was elevated and that I “might benefit from a Statin”. I put this in quotations because the wording comes right out of the guidelines for treating elevated cholesterol.
My response. No, I will not.
No one even looked at my fasting blood sugar (FBS). It was 113. This isn’t normal by anyone’s measurements. A1C 5.7. Taking a statin would have very likely made me diabetic. Also, I was in a high-stress job and had gained 30 pounds due to a lack of sleep and job stress. Walking was not helping and all they wanted to do was put me on statins.
In January 2016 I lost my job. The only tears were tears of joy. I never thought I would be grateful for losing a 6-figure annual income. I lost 10 pounds quickly just by getting adequate sleep and decreasing stress. I was old enough to collect my social security.
At the end of summer 2017, I still weighed around 167. I have no idea what my labs were as I wasn’t going back to the last person. I tried another provider but she sat there clicking at her keyboard making little eye contact so I never followed up on anything.
In August 2017 I must have been on Facebook or something and came across Mark Hyman’s book “Eat Fat, Get Thin”. I read that book and lost another 20 pounds following a primarily ketogenic diet. Now I’m not saying to run out and eat a ketogenic diet. It isn’t for everyone. It does work for me.
In 2018 I found an integrative medicine doc. By then, with my diet changes and all, my blood sugar and cholesterol were coming down and he recommended a couple of other supplements that brought it down even further. I also found out I have some genetic predispositions to conditions linked to inflammation like heart disease and diabetes.
So, I’m working on it. But I am healthier now than I was 4 years ago and NOT because of the providers I saw up till the last one.
The moral of the story is: Know your lab results. If you can’t interpret them, have someone in functional or integrative medicine (like a health coach) help you to understand them. Be responsible for your health. It’s not your provider’s job to keep you healthy and even if it was, they aren’t doing a very good job.
It is clear, if I relied on my providers, I would be diabetic on statins and at least Metformin and still way overweight.
That ain’t gonna happen.
Let me know if I can help you find your way to your optimal health.