What My CPAP Has Done For My Bloodwork Numbers

….absolutely nothing.

But there is something cool and dramatic to share. Read on.

Backstory:

I have been getting regular blood work every three months for over a year now, mainly for monitoring purposes. Last year, I went to my doctor because I was having extremely infrequent and heavy periods. My doctor ordered bloodwork for a full hormonal panel, adrenal function, thyroid function, and more.

When the results came back, my cortisol was deemed to be too low, and I was deficient in Vitamin D. My blood sugar was also slightly outside of the normal range (by one point), so in subsequent follow ups, my A1C was tested as well.

My doctor has been really happy with the results over the past year. Everything has been slowly and steadily improving. My blood sugar has been in the normal range in every follow up reading. My cortisol levels and Vitamin D levels have been steadily improving. My thyroid hormone levels are all within normal ranges. My A1C is hovering just above the high range of normal, and it hasn’t budged much, but my doctor isn’t worried because everything else is looking great.

But I just got a CPAP machine in the past three months, and so many things have dramatically changed for me, along with my sleep. My energy levels. My ability to focus. My motivation levels. My recovery from heavy lifting.

So because everything has been going SO. MUCH. BETTER. for me, I was expecting Dramatically Different Results on this quarter’s blood work.

What Actually Happened

Well, I got my test results back this week, with a note that said “the doctor wanted me to let you know they look amazing.” And I saw them, and I saw that they were pretty much the same as last time, and I was actually disappointed, because I was hoping for some really dramatic difference.

So I Examined My Self-Talk

Why is it that we want drama and drastic changes to see if something is working? Is it not enough that I am doing things around the house I have never done, and actually able to sustain a healthy lifestyle now, and that I am a better parent and friend and can focus at work again, and that I don’t need to be sedentary for 23 hours per day to recover from a one hour workout? Why do I need dramatic blood work results too?

The Answer: Comparison

A friend of mine on Facebook, Patrik, has been posting about his own health journey, and it has included some dramatic changes in his blood work numbers. Within the past year, his A1C levels have dropped from 9.6 (diabetic) to 4.9 (normal).  His doctor has taken him off the medication he takes for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides. He went from spending hundreds of dollars per month on medication, to spending just $5 per month, as only one medication remains. He no longer needs the CPAP machine he needed before.  He was previously sedentary, and now he has recently run his first 5K and is getting stronger in the gym all the time. In the process of changing all these numbers, his body weight also reduced by about 30%, give or take.

Now, Patrik improved his health using a very different approach than I have been using. Instead of making small changes over time, he made some very big changes. He went from a sedentary lifestyle to doing regular CrossFit workouts, and adopted a lower calorie ketogenic diet.  I started questioning, momentarily….should I go back to CrossFit? Should I do what he does?

And I realized that I need to keep my eyes on my own journey and not compare myself to someone else.

See, Patrik and I come with different health histories, different needs, and different responsibilities. While I am beyond excited for him that he got off almost all his medication doing a restrictive diet and regular CrossFit workouts, I have already tried that route, and it didn’t work with my life in a way that I could sustain and it didn’t make me healthier. Does that make it “wrong?” Not for Patrik, it doesn’t. For me, it does.

So, let’s talk about those “dramatic” blood work changes I was wanting, and how I was disappointed to see stability. Patrik was on several medications, and his levels were still high, before he made lifestyle changes. He had room for dramatic changes. Whereas I am on zero medications. Shouldn’t I be grateful that I don’t have far to go? Yes, I should. Instead of being disappointed that I didn’t see any dramatic change, I should be grateful that my body functions normally without medications. How’s that for perspective?

For Patrik, his medical reasons for adopting a restrictive diet are obviously compelling. For me, with a history of disordered eating, any potential benefits do not outweigh the risks. I know, because I have done it in the past, and after years, it led to bingeing and weight gain and disordered eating patterns. So, even though I know I could probably nudge A1C down into the normal range by restricting certain food groups, the benefit is not worth the cost to me at this time. I am healthier and happier being more free with my food. And I am grateful that I have the luxury of doing so. Instead of being disappointed that my A1C is stable, I should be thrilled that it is stable, that my blood sugar is in the normal range, and that my body can handle the food I need to eat to maintain my mental health. Again, instead of being disappointed that I didn’t see a dramatic change, I should be grateful that I don’t NEED to see a dramatic change.

Patrik was able to stop using his CPAP machine in the past couple months. His energy levels and sleep improved on his new lifestyle, with his healthier habits. Whereas I have tried maintaining healthier habits throughout my life, and something always was wrong, even when I was much thinner. I recovered incredibly slowly from workouts that gave most people my age no problems. My hunger levels seemed abnormally high. My motivation at home was always low, and my motivation and focus at work took a lot of effort to maintain.

And I tried to make drastic changes, like Patrik did, over the years. I’ve done restrictive diets and high intensity workout regimens in the past….and they always ran me into the ground, more than they should, and I couldn’t continue. (Isn’t exercise supposed to make you feel better, not worse, over time?)

….Until I got my CPAP machine. Now MY energy levels are off the charts. My motivation levels and focus are at an all time high. I’m finally able to recover well from the workouts I do. So, while Patrik was thrilled to get rid of his CPAP machine, they may have to pry mine from my cold, dead hands.

In addition to having different health histories, we also have different responsibilities in our current lives. His daughter is a teenager, and my son is a preschooler. Until last month, I was still a breastfeeding mother.  Our day to day (and nighttime) parenting demands are different (I know nothing about parenting teenagers, so I am not going to say it is easier. Just different). So, the food and exercise routines that fit into Patrik’s life are different than the ones that will fit into mine. Again, I should be grateful that I don’t have health challenges that require me to make more drastic changes to my life.

So, there is no good reason for me to be dissatisfied with my own progress because it doesn’t look like my friend Patrik’s. We are completely different, and my progress is great too.

Three years ago, I had hypothyroidism. Now, even with a 40% weight gain (some muscle, some fat), my thyroid function consistently tests as healthy and normal.

One year ago, I went to my doctor to talk about extreme fatigue. I needed frequent naps. Now, I almost never need naps. I feel as energetic as I did 10 years ago and 50% lighter.

Since my pregnancy, I had severe brain fog that didn’t go away for years after I had my son. Now, I am thrilled with how mentally sharp I feel.

Even alongside a weight gain, my blood work is healthier today than it is one year ago. My cortisol levels are back in the normal range.

Now, my hunger and thirst levels feel much more manageable. I no longer need to eat or drink frequently to keep my energy levels up.

So, clearly, I need to be more grateful. My health has indeed improved dramatically. I realized that instead of hoping for “dramatic blood work results,” I can choose to be grateful that I don’t need to see dramatic blood work results in the first place, and be grateful for the amazing changes I HAVE experienced.

And remember how I said that one year ago, my periods were extremely infrequent and heavy? Well, I just got an unexpected menstrual period…..one month after my last one. For the first time in at least 6 years. So, I got my dramatic result after all, just not the one I was expecting. I have never been more happy to menstruate.

Moral of the story? Eyes on my own journey. Patrik is doing an amazing job, and I am doing an amazing job. Both of us are improving our health and quality of life, even though that looks different for each of us. I can be just as happy for myself, too.

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