My wife insisted I go and see the doctor, which I did be-grudgingly. I don’ often bother to go and hadn't in over a year. In February 2014, I'd had a blood test to ensure I wasn’t suffering from Diabetes. I didn’t check the results until my recent visit, when I was told that my cholesterol was 6.7. My doctor suggested taking statins. I didn't want to. I told her I was making some lifestyle changes such as stopping eating sandwiches for lunch. She asked about my life style and I told her how I take care of myself. She said that as I was already leading a fairly healthy lifestyle, there might not be a lot more that I could do, especially as I've weighed just 11 stone for the last 25 years.
The way I was now feeling made me see that whilst I looked all right on the outside that might not be true on the inside. Both my parents have diabetes, so I might be pre-disposed to get it. My younger brother at the age of 35, had a minor heart attack and has had a stent fitted. The odds could be stacked against me. This time it was me insisting on another blood test, and the doctor agreed. In January 2016, I got my results and found that my cholesterol had risen to 6.1. The treatment on offer was again statins. I said, "Give me six months and I will reduce it." I explained that on work days, I walk at least five miles. The nurse agreed that's good but said "Your body is used to that now; you need to shock your body and do more exercise." She also suggested I change my diet and reduce the amount of rice that I eat. Now, for a Bangladeshi, this is very difficult. There is a Bangla saying 'Rice and fish makes a Bengali’.
Growing up in Bangladesh, our diet was mainly rice with vegetables or fish. It was only on rare occasions that we would eat meat, perhaps two or three times a year. Chicken was eaten every few months. In the UK, it is common to find all the above being served in one sitting. This over consumption of rich foods, has had a detrimental impact on our health. There is a dramatic rise in heart related illness, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other such conditions in our community and the wider South Asian community. I spoke to several friends who are of similar ages and was told "I’m already on Statins; you have nothing to worry about". Well, I did worry, as I didn't want to be on any long term medication.
I spoke to my family about it and my daughters, Leya and Maya asked me what cholesterol is? I tried to explain in the best way I could, and Leya, at five year old, summed it up by saying, "Daddy, you have fat blood".
The first thing, I cut down on was the amount of rice that I was eating. The nurse suggested I eat no more than a third of a plate, and better still make it brown rice, and to eat more fruit and veg. Recently, I have started making smoothies with fruit, often using ripe Avocado as well. I have porridge several times a week and have salads for lunch with a variety of veg and fish. I have also started having daily doses of benecol or the supermarket's own brand, which is much cheaper. I have also changed my butter spread to one that has plant stanols and I started exercising more, with an extra session of football each week.
Within the first month, I lost half a stone. I found my trousers slipping off me, and my shirts fitted me so much better. I feel as though I have earned the right to buy myself more fitted shirts and suits….all in good time. Three months in now, and I find it hard to believe the changes that I have made and the positive impact it’s having on my body. I may even be able track down that ever elusive six pack I've been chasing for years. I am due a re-test in the next few months and if I manage to get my cholesterol down below 5, then I think I will treat myself to that new slimmer suit.