Friday, March 23, 2007

Suckling Pig and Zocor

I ordered suckling pig last night, in honor of my improved cholesterol numbers. I might have gone for it in any case, but this time I did so without the usual twinge of apprehension and sense of foreboding. The dish in question was consumed at Assenzio, the East Village Sardinian wine bar and restaurant that has been on my A-list for about five years. I'd had better there in the past; last night's pig was a bit on the dry side and a bit too salty. When it's "on" though, Assenzio's suckling pig, cooked with aromatic sprigs of myrtle, is among the best I've had in New York. Assenzio offers a nice combination of casual atmosphere, moderate prices, and a good wine list (though scant in the below-$30 category). Last night we started with the gnochetti with wild boar ragu, wild boar being a house specialty. It's always surprisingly and pleasantly light, considering it's a plate of pasta dumplings with a hearty game sauce. I had a very enjoyable pear tart with vanilla gelato for dessert. I've probably been to Assenzio about ten times, and there have only been a few serious misses. Once the polenta with artichoke and truffle oil was pathologically salty; once the suckling pig was tragically dry; once the swordfish carpaccio was half frozen and I had to send it back. Usually, however, the food is delicious and the portions generous.

But enough of Assenzio and on to Zocor. My cholesterol had been borderline high for about ten years, generally in the 210-230 range. In addition, my HDL was pretty low, rarely breaking 40. My doctor was always trying to get me to go on statins, but I resisted, fearful of side effects and not overly concerned with those numbers. I always felt the cholesterol risk was overstated and that doctors were too quick to prescribe potentially dangerous drugs as a panacea. Recently, however, my numbers started creeping up, and I suppose the "research" I do for this blog may be part of the problem, along with my quintogenarian status. Last March I was at 250, and in December at a whopping 289. I finally gave in and agreed to try Zocor. Though Lipitor is more widely prescribed, and is somewhat more effective, Zocor had gone generic and was therefore much cheaper. I took Zocor for three months, without any noticeable side effects, and had my blood tested last week. I called the doctor the other day and he told me that my total cholesterol was down to 159, with an HDL of 54; my liver function was normal. "You've added twenty years to your life," my doctor said. A rather hyperbolic pronouncement, I thought. I don't think there's been enough time or evidence to determine how effective statins are in the long run, and I'm still skeptical about how close the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease may really be. But considering the good results I've had, and the lack of side effects, I figure I might as well continue taking Zocor. It may have absolutely no bearing on my life expectancy or future health, but I've come to think of it as a milder, atheist-friendly form of Pascal's Wager.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I resisted my doctor's suggestion of Lipitor a few years ago. What convinced me to give in was his admission that even though he does not have high cholesterol he takes a 10mg tablet daily at the urging of his cardiologist colleagues that do the same just to ensure their LDL stays below 100. I started out with a total of 240 with high LDL and low HDL. I now hover around 160 total with LDL well under 100 and HDL well above 40. Regular blood tests assure me that my liver is holding up well. BTW, I eat all manner of cholesterol laden foods, sometimes with wild abandon, and my doctor tells me as long as my numbers stay good I will not get any lectures from him.

Anyway, I did enjoy my dinner with you at Ascensio

7:11 AM  
Blogger Douglas Cress said...

Oat bran - this stuff is amazing. I try to eat a serving or two of hot cereal a day. Not only is it delicious, its also satisfying. I feel the benefits may be on par with medication.

Total cholesterol: 122
LDL: 53
HDL: 59
Trigliceryde: 50

Granted I'm young, active - and high cholesterol is largely heritable.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, sorry for misspelling Assenzio. I thought I fixed it but apparently I copied and pasted the original misspelled word instead of the corrected version.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Douglas Cress said...

a friend of mine passed this along. Its a fascinating illustration of atherosclerosis.

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Todd Thomas and i would like to show you my personal experience with Zocor.

I am 55 years old. Have been on Zocor for 4 years now. Zocor did lower my cholesterol. I also have RA and did not know which caused pain stopped Zocor, pain improved dramatically, but weakness remains. Dr says permanent damage. Now I my cholesterol is high.

I have experienced some of these side effects -
Leg pain and weakness

I hope this information will be useful to others,
Todd Thomas

3:17 AM  

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