One Mom's Healthy Change of Heart
Help Your Heart
Kelly Thomas dealt with poor cholesterol and high blood pressure for years. But when it threatened her life and her child’s, she knew she had to make heart health a priority.
Thomas was 23 when she graduated from college and moved to Madison. Soon after she began to notice problems and she was put on medicine for cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Thomas wasn’t overly concerned or surprised to find that she had these conditions. “I have a family history of heart disease,” she said.
In 2004, however, Thomas became pregnant and things took a turn for the worse.
“Pregnancy was tough. I had very high blood pressure and I was put on bed rest,” she said.
When her son was born, doctors were concerned and after several tests they determined that he may have CPT 2, a metabolic disorder that doesn’t allow the body to metabolize fat. The condition can be fatal.
Thomas did some research and found that feeding her son certain foods and feeding him often would help his body deal with the disorder. Soon, her son’s symptoms began to subside, and by the time he was 18 months he was cleared. The doctors found this strange and tested Thomas for similar metabolic issues. Her numbers were off the charts.
“They couldn’t read the tests; they came out blank because my numbers were so far off the charts. My total cholesterol was over 800,” Thomas said.
Thomas was sent to Dr. Patrick McBride, a UW Health cardiologist who prescribed her medication to help control her triglycerides and recommended diet and exercise as a part of her treatment.
“We tried several drugs,” Thomas said. “But they all made me feel lousy.”
Dr. McBride diagnosed Thomas with triglyceridemia, and said that she likely had a metabolic condition that was causing her cholesterol levels to be so high.
Despite her best efforts, Thomas continued to have problems with her cholesterol.
“In 2008, I went in for my next checkup and my numbers had gone up again,” she said. “I went home and cried - all my hard work wasn’t paying off. It was an emotional rollercoaster and I had had enough.”
Thomas decided that a major change needed to occur.
“My body wasn’t happy,” she said. “I cannot give it fat, I cannot give it sugar. I changed my diet completely.”
Thomas used many of the facts she had learned about nutrition and her son’s metabolic disorder to help make changes in her diet.
“Everything went out of the house that wasn't a 'whole' food group,” she said. “I cut out all the whites - white bread, rice. We don’t go out to eat and we watch our sodium. I also began working out hard and every day. Soon the weight fell off.”
Thomas lost about six inches around her waist and has seen significant improvements in her health. Still, Thomas admits there were many difficulties along the way.
She attributes much of her success and her ability to push through the hard times to her family. “It is difficult not to have birthday cake,” Thomas said. “So the family support was huge. It really helped and I was able to do it.”
Thomas is now doing much better and continues to improve.
“Last time my cholesterol was 146, and I don’t take any statins,” she said.
Thomas continues to take 5 mg of blood pressure medication each day – that is down from 20 mg. She also takes fish oil and probiotics and tries to find ways to incorporate crushed flaxseed and wheat germ into each of her recipes.
“I just realized that everything I put into my mouth affects me,” Thomas said. “Food is like medicine.”