Monday, January 19, 2015

Cipralex and Cholesterol

In researching Cipralex before I started taking it in November 2012, I came across an internet post written by a Canadian gentleman claiming that Cipralex had caused his otherwise heart-healthy mother to die of a heart attack, very shortly after she took her first dose.  Since I did not find any other information reporting the same, I wondered if he was just upset that he had lost his mother and that he had felt the need to pin blame somewhere and Cipralex was the place.

After my own mother had a heart attack at the end of 2013 (not Cipralex related), I sought out that claim again in an attempt to gain more information on the subject to see if my family history of heart disease paired with Cipralex would increase my likelihood of having a heart attack.  I don't know what search terms I was looking for, but I didn't really find anything that was alarming or concerning to me and I let my suspicions fall to the wayside.

In May 2014, my doctor called me into her office to discuss the results of my annual bloodwork.  I expected the regular low-iron talk or to hear that I am not keeping up with my vitamin D.  I have had both calls in the past and despite my good intentions to keep up with the recommended doses of iron or vitamin D supplements, they slowly fall away from my daily routine as I feel better and stop thinking about how crappy I feel.  What I was NOT expecting to hear was that my cholesterol was elevated well above my last measure and that it had been flagged in the report as high.

My doctor calmly stated that it was borderline high, and that I should not be too concerned yet, but due to my mom's recent heart attack and my family history of heart disease, I should take action before it gets worse.  She recommended that I change my diet and increase exercise immediately, and that we recheck my cholesterol levels in six months to determine if drugs were something we'd need to consider sooner rather than later.  You see, my mom's cholesterol had been only borderline high for the 10 years leading up to her heart attack.  Even her blood pressure was within normal range WHILE she was in the middle of the whole thing.  With this knowledge in her pocket, my doctor does not want to play around, and for that I am thankful.

She told me to cut back on red meat and stop eating peanut butter.  More exercise, fewer cholesterol-containing foods, stay away from fats.  I know that the baffled expression on my face made her think I didn't understand.  And I kind of didn't.  How would I find time to exercise MORE than the four hours per week I was already putting in?  The only way I could eat LESS red meat than I already did was to cut it out completely.  And how would I get enough protein to manage my digestion and adrenal health issues without my go-tos of peanut butter and eggs?


Now SHE wore the baffled expression.  She had no answers for me.  And once again I was left to figure this out for myself.  Kind of a theme with my health care.


As the months went on and I just kept doing things the exact same way I had always been doing them, my weight steadily climbed.  I started to speculate that my LDL cholesterol was climbing as my weight climbed, and that the visceral fat encircling my waist was growing there because of my buddy, Cipralex.  I tried to find new ways to lose the weight, or at least stabilize it, but no change made a difference.  After I wondered about this connection and research brought me no answers, I started counting the days to my next cholesterol check, just so I could see.


Well, the way things went, I ended up weaning myself from Cipralex.  I really really was convinced that it was the cause of my weight gain and I did not feel healthy or beautiful, which was also affecting my mental health.  As I cut back on my dose so very slowly, I found that I was still doing okay, and that gave me courage to see and interest in seeing just how far I could go in decreasing, rather than increasing, my dose.  On September 15, 2014, I took one last half-pill.


It was tough at the beginning to not just go back on.  But my curiosity consistently won out.  "I wonder what one more day without it will be like?"  Every day was "just one more day" and that stretched into now four months of Cipralex-free days.  My weight has been dropping at a consistent but healthy rate.  Six pounds gone in the past four months. 

I had my blood drawn on December 8, 2014 to recheck my cholesterol and my liver function.  My liver function is good, and my LDL cholesterol came in at a healthy 2.95.  Just under one month before I started taking Cipralex, it was 2.61.  In May 2014, my high reading was 3.54.  December 2.95, and the only thing I changed was the Cipralex. 

Since I know the numbers now, I want it to be back at that 2.61, and I am going to see if I can get it there by my next physical.  Maybe I can get it even lower.

I am glad that I was able to come off Cipralex.  It was literally a lifesaver for me - mentally AND physically - and I remember thinking that there was no way I could ever live without it.  But here I am, drug free!  Knowing what I know now, if I ever need to take antidepressants again (I have heard this is likely), I will do a little more research with my experience in mind and see what else is out there and what kinds of effects they have on heart health. 

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