Do Health Numbers Always Tell the Whole Story?

Chasing A Number images by Leo Reynolds

I met with my endocrinologist a few weeks ago, after my blood work, to discuss both my type 1 diabetes and my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. I was looking for guidance on my quest to prevent further autoimmune issues and perhaps get permission to only check my A1C twice a year instead of 3-4 times.

Instead I left his office with more questions and a few more weeks of waiting. Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell us a lot either.

My labs came back like this:

  • TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone): 1.41 This is good! When I was first diagnosed the level was non-existent. Everything was in overdrive so I didn’t need to signal my thyroid to produce anything more.
  • T4 Free 1.20 Also very good. This number was elevated at my diagnosis.
  • Thyroperoxidase AB (the antibodies) 49.7. This is high but not as high as it was when I was originally diagnosed. At that time my level was 322. This means my immune system is no longer in overdrive. People with type 1 diabetes often have higher than normal levels, so it’s hard to tell why the number is up.
  • Oddly, he didn’t take my A1C? Why draw my blood and not do it?

The numbers were good, but they didn’t give me any answers to my questions. In fact, they just gave me (and the doctor) more questions.

  • When I asked about gluten, his response was disappointing. Basically he said, We’re all going to die someday, do what you have to do.
  • When I asked about my fingernails detaching from the nail bed (one came off completely), he had no answer.
  • When asked what to do he said to go off the meds and we would redo the labs in about 4 weeks.
  • When I asked what made everyone so sure it was Hashimoto’s, which typically manifests itself as hypothyroidism, he said it actually may not be what we thought it was.

He thinks I may have both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s. He thinks that my cells may be fighting it out, thus keeping things at a strange equilibrium. Instead of a plan, I added another autoimmune disease to the mix.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Graves’ Disease is another immune system disorder that results in overproduction of thyroid hormones. It’s not life threatening and the treatment is medication. Risk factors include being a female under 40 with other autoimmune disorders and high levels of stress. Sound familiar?

The closest thing I had to a plan when I left the endocrinologist’s office was to wait and have patience. I am good at neither. We made a lab appointment and I agreed to call if I started feeling anything unusual so I could come in early. I mentally agreed with myself to follow the same advice I ask clients to follow with their fitness plans.

  1. Only one change at time. If you change too many things at once you can’t be sure what is working and what is not. I would stop taking my medication and that would be the only variable I changed. I would eat as I had been for the last several months, keeping gluten load reduced but not attempting to go gluten free.
  2. Keep good records. Just like keeping a good food log and workout journal, keeping track of some basic data could help me understand what my body was trying to tell me. Some of my previous symptoms included increased anxiety, increased resting heart rate, trouble sleeping and constipation. I made a plan to take my pulse on a regular basis and make notations in my calendar regarding any other symptoms.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some subtle changes. However with the holidays and erratic schedule due to weather, it’s hard to say their cause. I go back to the doctor tomorrow.  I’ll see what he and the numbers say.

Do you keep track of your fitness plan or health numbers? How much data do you provide your health care (or fitness) professional to help him or her craft a solid action plan?

  • GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I actually just recently got a DNA test! It is the most fascinating thing! It tells me my susceptibility to getting certain diseases and it tells me my heritage down to the %! I do keep track of some of my numbers because I need to for my health’s sake. My liver is terrible :( And I have VERY LOW blood count. I also have low thyroid function, however, I truly believe that everyone has a thyroid issue because our diets don’t supply ample amounts of iodine anymore! I think it’s important to keep track of your numbers regardless as to whether or not you have disorders, it’s just smart to stay on top of your game!

  • Jody R. Goldenfield

    YIKES!!! So much going on & I love that you share so others can learn from your issues! I so agree with the change things 1 at a time & record.. I don’t have what you do but as you know with age, things change. I had to make small changes along the way to see how the bod reacted to things.. it is the only way to know for sure with age or any other time yo are trying to make changes…

  • Pamela Hernandez

    23 and me? I’ve thought about doing it. My husband has.

  • Pamela Hernandez

    For better or worse, my life is an open book. :)

  • GiGi Eats Celebrities

    Yes! I did 23 and Me. Unfortunately the FDA has seized them, so I am not entirely sure if they are still doing the tests at the moment :(

  • misszippy1

    The medical system can be SO frustrating sometimes. You are so smart to go with one change at a time, though. Best of luck getting it all worked out perfectly.

  • Pamela Hernandez

    Thank you! It will never be perfect but I know it will get better. :)

  • Sarah Kerner

    Just reading this is so overwhelming! I can’t imagine trying to process it all. It sounds like you are getting good advice from your doctors, though, and I love how you’re applying your goal-setting know-how to slowly but sure figure all this out.

  • Pamela Hernandez

    Thanks, it is slow. But I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. :)

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