TUESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Sheri Foote has cholesterol
problems the likes of which few will ever have.
Foote, 43 and a Denver resident, was first diagnosed with high
cholesterol when she had a physical examination about age 21. "I
knew I had a family history of heart disease, so I thought it would
be a good thing to do," Foote recalled.
Her cholesterol "was off-the-charts high," she said. "Everyone's
first instinct was, 'You're young; this seems very strange.'"
It seemed that way to Foote, too. She'd been a dancer since she
was 6 and worked out regularly. "It seemed very shocking to me that
this would happen to someone with such a healthy lifestyle," she
Why Foote has struggled with high cholesterol since such a young
age remains somewhat of a mystery. "All they can figure is that all
the bad genes just piled up on me," she said. "My body just does
not produce the good cholesterol as much as we would like it
She first tried to regulate her cholesterol through diet and
exercise. "I even became a vegetarian in my 20s for a brief time,
hoping that would help out," Foote said. "I haven't eaten beef
since then, and I've really cut back on things like eggs and
cheese. I eat those things in very small doses."
Nonetheless, her cholesterol levels barely budged, she said.
When she was 30, her doctor prescribed a cholesterol-lowering
statin drug. "I went on it for about 6 months, and my cholesterol
level did come down some," Foote said. "Still it was quite
So high, in fact, that Foote became seized with a sense of
futility about it all. "I figured I was too young to be on a
statin, so I went off it, in my infinite wisdom," she said -- a
decision she later came to regret.
She had to have quadruple-bypass surgery the day after her 39th
Foote said she had "very classic Hollywood symptoms of heart
disease: . . . crushing in the chest and shortness of breath and
numbness down both of the arms." At first it happened when
exercising, she said, but then she started having episodes even
when at rest.
She had an angiogram, which is a test that checks for any
narrowing or blockage in the coronary arteries. Her doctors hoped
they could put in a stent, a steel mesh tube that can keep an
artery open, but Foote said the angiogram showed that things were
too far gone. She said her arteries were choked with plaque, and
her total cholesterol was at 335, with a level of high-density
lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the good kind, in the mid-teens. The
American Heart Association considers a total cholesterol level over
240 as high risk, and an HDL level less than 50, for women, as
higher risk as well.
Foote went in for bypass surgery. And she barely survived.
"I had a heart attack on the operating table," she said. "I always tell people, if you're going to have a heart attack, plan it right so you're in front of an audience of doctors when it happens. It was at the end. They were done and getting ready to close me up and send me to recovery."
Foote said that she now takes a fairly high dose of statins, a
prescription-strength niacin supplement and fish oil capsules, and
that her cholesterol today is a more reasonable level, though her
"good" cholesterol "is rarely in the range they would like it to
be, even with all of the medication." Typically, she said, her
total cholesterol is 130, with an HDL level of 30 and LDL
(low-density lipoprotein) of 86.
"I feel good these days, though," Foote said. "I took stock of my life, and I eliminated a lot of stress, which probably wasn't helping me either. Things are not bad at all."
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