The Real Normals – High Cholesterol

I’m an old nurse. Literally. I graduated in 1968. When you spend half a century in the same career, you are uniquely positioned to evaluate the changes that have occurred in the medical field. If you pay attention, you can begin to put things together and identify certain trends. One of those trends is how “normal” health indicators have changed in the course of those fifty years. That is not a good thing – in many cases, what was once considered normal is now considered a disease. And of course, a disease must be treated, preferably with the newest and most expensive medication. While treatment lines the pockets of the drug companies, it often does the patient no good.
The High Cholesterol Myth
Lots of people track their cholesterol levels and agonize over the numbers. Doctors scold those who “aren’t low enough.” To what end? I’ve talked about this
before, but there is plenty of evidence that high cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease. You need it for brain and nervous system health; your body will make it if necessary. Even the most die-hard believers in the conventional medical establishment have finally admitted that dietary cholesterol doesn’t raise your cholesterol levels. So it’s disheartening to see how many people are on statin medications, which may lower their high cholesterol levels but otherwise do them no good and in some cases do active harm.

Ground beef fat in the crockpot, ready to render.

Normal vs. High Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels vary widely in healthy people (by the way, they normally tend to be higher as you get older). The levels in healthy people range from 105 mg/dL to 343 mg/dL. When I graduated, a normal cholesterol level was around 220 mg/dL. These days, normal is supposed to be less than 200 mg/dL. Data on cholesterol levels over the years indicates the average (that doesn’t mean it’s healthy) cholesterol has dropped from 222 mg/dL in 1960-1962 to 203 mg/dL in 2002. During roughly the same period, statin use increased 24% in men over age 60 and 22% in women of the same age. Hmmm – a normal rise in cholesterol has now been dubbed a disease, which means there’s a market for statins. Anybody smell a rat? Even more important, evidence is beginning to emerge that high cholesterol is a biological anti-inflammation tactic. In other words, the real problem is increased inflammation, which your body is fighting by producing more cholesterol. The primary causes of inflammation? Dietary sugar – especially high-fructose corn syrup – a sedentary lifestyle, chemical or toxin exposure, stress and diabetes.
Benefits of Cholesterol
Take this to heart – cholesterol is essential to life. You have cholesterol in every cell membrane. It insulates nerve cells. Without adequate cholesterol, your body cannot build cell walls. It’s a critical component of bile, which is made in the liver and helps digest fats. Liver damage, by the way, is one of the most common side effects of statins. Your body uses cholesterol to make vitamin D and many hormones. There’s evidence that it helps support the immune system, is used in serotonin uptake (which helps you sleep and stay calm) and may serve as an antioxidant. Stored in the liver, it is sent to areas where there is inflammation and tissue damage to help promote repair. It’s also the main dietary source of B-choline, a critical vitamin for the nervous system. So when your doctor says, “You have high cholesterol” and offers statin medications, you might want to answer, “PASS!”
Think about it.

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Rainy Day

The weather wishers said today would be a rainy day. Based on what’s been happening since I got up around 4:30, I think they may have underestimated just a bit. The clouds are so low and heavy that it looks like the middle of the night when you look out the window, even though the sun rose – somewhere up there – several hours ago. We’ve had thunder and lightning strikes within a mile or less and rain varying from a few pitter-patters to stand-under-the-shower-full-blast downpours. Not to mention hail. At the moment it’s the latter. So once the basic outside chores are done, I’m focused on inside work for the duration of this rainy day. The whole next week is expected to be sunny and mild. I can guarantee I’m not going to be inside unless it’s too dark to see…
Dishes – the youngest granddaughters are here for the day, so lots more dishes than I usually have. This is vintage Nortake china, 12 place settings, that I got off Craigslist for 95 bucks. A full set is worth between $500 and $900. Even though I had to pay an additional $150 for the completer dishes from, I’m way ahead on the deal. My other set of china was at least 50 years old and I have never been able to find replacement pieces. I was down to four place settings that weren’t chipped (as in major chunks, not little slivers) or so badly stained the white was beige and brown.

Having 12 place settings gives me more leeway in the dishes department on the crazy-busy days.

I like this pattern; subtle but decorative.

Cookies – our microwave died a few weeks back. Well, more accurately, it tried to catch itself on fire. A neighbor gave us a smaller one he’d only used a few times. I could do just fine without a microwave, but hubby gets crotchety when he has to reheat food the old-fashioned way. So I was thrilled not to have to spend money on something I didn’t want in the first place. The chocolate chip cookies are for a thank-you (plus a few for hubby and the kids– otherwise I’ll never get out the door with the others).

Have to have lots of nuts. Hubby will eat cookies (and cake) without nuts, but he bitches, gripes and grumbles the whole time.

This is the third batch. Hubby and the kids made short work of the first two.

Paperwork – filing, tax preparation, updating the ranch journal.
Laundry – as I’ve mentioned before, if there’s a never-ending story around here, it’s about the laundry. And when you’ve had six inches of rain in less than five days – as we’ve just had – the mud is calf-deep in some places. I had six loads today. Plus the clothes and such from hubby’s last hunting trip and my clinic work clothes (which I darned sure don’t wash with the other stuff). I start with the muddy stuff and after everything else is washed, my white lab coat goes through.
Cleaning up the fridge – by the end of the week, the refrigerator tends to accumulate things. Among them are the chuck roast we had for dinner last Sunday. Even though we’ve been using it for lunches and leftovers, it will spoil before we finish it. So my usual tactic is to whack it into two-person servings and freeze them. Very useful when life gets out of hand and there’s no time to cook. That nice meaty bone from the roast and the fond in the bottom of the casserole dish, plus some other bone leftovers and vegetable trimmings from the freezer, will make good broth for vegetable, beef barley or minestrone soup.

With grass-fed beef and older animals, cooking meat right out of the freezer is the best way to go. Start at 450 degrees for the first hour, then turn the oven down to 250; check the temperature about three hours later. You want it between 130-135 degrees.

This is what the roast looks like five hours later – tender, succulent and delicious.

What do the rest of you do on a rainy day?

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Bad Dog/Irresponsible Neighbors

Sad times around the homestead the last few weeks. Our neighbor’s dog came “visiting,” terrorized our cats and killed CeeCee, the female.

CeeCee acquired us after a severely alcoholic neighbor was hospitalized and subsequently died of liver failure. Like many in rural communities, this neighbor had barn cats who basically roamed free. When she became ill, no one seemed to give any thought to her cats. They spread over the neighborhood, starving and desperate for food. CeeCee was probably about three or four months old when she showed up at our place, thin as a rail. As we often do with semi-feral cats, we live-trapped her. When we do this, if the cat isn’t mean and has been socialized, we either find homes for them or they become part of the ranch “pride.” CeeCee was wraith-thin, but friendly. She was an extremely vocal cat, which is how she got her name, Chatty Cathy, quickly shortened to CeeCee. Having been starved so young, she never grew very tall. She dove head-first into the free-choice food and within a few months resembled a furry barrel with legs. She loved the dogs and was often to be found curled against one or the other. She was only three years old when she was killed.

Yes – did you want something? You’re disturbing my nap.

Had the dog been able to get to Radar and Black Cat (he tore up the front of the area where they had hidden trying to get at them) I’m sure we would be mourning all three of them. Losing animals, sometimes before their time, is part of ranching. Putting an animal down that is suffering is a relief all around, even though you grieve. But there was no excuse for this cat being killed. The dog that killed her was a rescue animal – they found him in a dumpster. While I understand the impulse to help, that means you take on the responsibility for that animal. This dog was always overly aggressive. He killed one of the owners’ goats, and attacked and bit my husband on two separate occasions. They allowed him to roam until other neighbors complained.
Hubby came home and found the dog trying to dig into the chicken pen. He chased him home with a few well-placed rocks, came up to the house and found the cat’s body. Needless to say, there was an immediate confrontation with the neighbor and a clear warning: “If that dog sticks so much as a toenail on our property, I will shoot it.”

Wrestling match – from the growls and hisses, you’d think they were trying to kill each other, but it’s all in fun.

My remaining cats are anxious about going outside and Radar is downright clingy. If I go out he comes with me, sticks close and comes in when I do. He used to stay out playing with CeeCee for hours on end. She was his best bud and Mom substitute – washing his face, swatting him when he was being a pain; they always slept all curled up together. He’s still looking for her.
It’s definitely put a damper on what was a neighborly relationship. The husband was very apologetic; the wife has yet to comment on it at all. And frankly, I don’t think too much of their “solution.” They gave the dog away. In other words, they passed the problem on to someone else.

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