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Phyllis’ Experience with High Cholesterol

March 19, 2012 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Phyllis was a successful family-practice attorney who was proud of the fact that she had built her own thriving practice from nothing. But over the years, her devotion to work led to a slow deterioration of her health. The most obvious sign was that her cholesterol levels rose steadily. Eventually, when her blood work revealed that she was at risk for heart disease, the doctor she was seeing recommended medication, but Phyllis never filled the prescription. Then, after a particularly difficult day in court, Phyllis had a heart attack while driving home. Her symptoms were typical for a woman. Instead of the chest-gripping pain men so often experience, she felt discomfort in her left arm, back, and jaw. “I was so lightheaded I had to pull over and get help,” she recalls. “Afterward, I was glad I did, because I could have caused a terrible accident if I had passed out. Fortunately, no one was hurt.”

At the time of the heart attack, Phyllis’s blood tests revealed her total cholesterol was 248, when it should have been less than 200. In addition, her LDL was 186, when it should have been below 160. And her HDL was 48, although I’d like to see it at 50 or above.

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These numbers improved somewhat when Phyllis went on statins after the heart attack. But after a few months, she noticed that her memory was suffering. Only after reading an article in a magazine did Phyllis connect the brain fog to statins. “I called the doctor, and he told me not to worry about it!” she remembers. “Well, as an attorney with a lot of different cases to juggle, there was no way I could ignore the fact that I couldn’t keep anything straight. And my clients were starting to ask if I was all right, so I had to do something to get off those drugs.”

At the recommendation of a friend, Phyllis came to my office and started a new regimen, involving a better diet, daily exercise, and supplements of red yeast rice, vitamin E, fish oil, and coenzyme Q10. After about three months, Phyllis’s blood work came back vastly improved. “All the numbers were better, but the most important thing is that I can think again!” she says. “If I develop another health problem, I’m doing natural remedies first — then if I need something more, maybe a prescription drug. But they’re certainly not my first choice any longer.”

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