I know it’s been a while since my last post. It’s been so long I don’t know if I remember how to write! I apologize for going dark.
The truth of the matter is, I’ve been doing great so there hasn’t been anything to write about in terms of my health. Well, that was the case anyway up until September 11th when I found out I had elevated liver enzymes during a routine physical. I’ll dive into this in a minute.
Other than the liver issue, I have been doing great. My ablation is still holding strong as I haven’t had a single blip of afib since! The other great news is my PVCs and PACs haven’t returned either. They’ve been gone for almost a year now. It’s so hard to believe that I battled them daily for almost two years and now they are completely gone. I thank God every night in prayer for protecting me from afib, PVCs, and PACs. My God is an awesome God!
Do I Have Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?
Up until last month, I had never heard of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. I went in for a routine physical and like I do every year, I had all my blood work done. Everything looked routine except my ALT and AST liver enzymes. They were “slightly elevated.” Take a look:
This was the first time in my life where my annual numbers weren’t perfectly normal. As someone that has an admittedly irrational and constant fear of getting a chronic or terminal disease, I completely freaked out when I got the results back. I did what any sane person would do, I went to Google to see what was going on. That was a big mistake!
Google is a hypochondriac’s worst enemy! I convinced myself my liver was going bad and that I only had a few years left. O.K. I’m exaggerating a little but seriously, I had myself convinced that my liver was really sick and that my life as I knew it was over. Part of that would actually be true.
Convinced I only had a few years before I would need a liver transplant, I contacted my doctor. He told me to take a deep breath (literally) and said those numbers aren’t anything to freak out about. He made an appointment with me to come in and talk about it. He could tell I was needlessly worried so he wanted to discuss this in person to calm me down. The appointment was scheduled a week out. His last instructions to me were to stay off Google and to enjoy my birthday, which was just three days away.
How could I enjoy my birthday when I was sure I had liver disease? It was the worst birthday of my adult life. It was bad enough I was turning 46 (I still can’t believe I’m that old already) but now I was 46 with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease! Determined to get some joy out of my birthday I still had a vodka-7up cocktail. I rationalized that I have NONalcoholic fatty liver disease so I was free to have a drink:)
I was proud of myself because I actually listened to my doctor’s orders about avoiding Google. I stayed clear of it for the remainder of the week. I just put my faith and trust in God that no matter what was wrong with me everything would be fine. He hadn’t failed me yet!
What Can Cause Your Liver Enzymes to Go High?
My doctor explained to me that while my liver enzymes were elevated, they were still well within the “slight elevation” scale. Apparently, your liver enzyme numbers can be a few hundred above the “high normal” range and still only be considered “slightly elevated.” Of course, this is only true if you are otherwise healthy and aren’t having any symptoms, which was the case for me.
He said when he saw my numbers he didn’t think anything of them. He said I was perfectly healthy and I had no symptoms so he wasn’t worried at all. Furthermore, he said liver enzymes can go up and down for a variety of reasons but it’s all perfectly normal. It’s not necessarily an indication you have liver disease.
I pointed out to him that I did a ton of research on this and I thought it was possible that I could have early stages of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease given my atrocious diet and my excessive weight gain in the past year. I had gained well over 25 pounds.
He agreed with my logic and said it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have my levels retested and to have a liver ultrasound completed just to give me peace of mind. That was music to my ears because I came to the appointment fully prepared to demand a second test and a liver ultrasound. When I did my research on this I learned that the best things you can do as first steps in diagnosing fatty liver disease were to have a retest to see if the first numbers were a fluke and to have an ultrasound completed.
We made an appointment for the retest and the liver ultrasound and I was sent on my way. I had to sweat it out for another week.
Life as I Knew It Changed
While I was waiting for the next appointment, I started to reflect. I started looking at all of this in a totally different light. This wasn’t bad news. It was good news!
I’ve been a fast-food and junk food junkie all of my life and have always struggled to “eat right.” I had been praying for MONTHS for God to help me eat better and to lose weight.
I was really discouraged because nothing was happening. Despite my pleas, my prayers went unanswered. I’d wake up determined this was the day I was going to change but by noon I was sitting in my car in the McDonald’s parking lot scarfing down a large Big Mac meal and a large Coke. That would be followed by a chocolate candy bar for dessert and then more junk food throughout the day and evening.
You wouldn’t believe what my diet consisted of and just how much junk food I was consuming. I estimated I was consuming no less than 3,500 calories per day of nothing but fast food and junk food. It was a miracle that I “only” ballooned to 205 pounds at one point this past year and that my afib didn’t return. It’s also amazing that all my blood work came back perfectly normal (well aside from my liver enzymes).
I truly believed that getting this “bad health report” was God’s way of answering my prayers. Since I had been too stubborn to listen to Him and change my ways, He figured this would be the one way to get my attention. Well, it worked! I’m listening, Lord, I’m listening!
I stopped eating fast food completely. I stopped having my daily 32 oz. of Pepsi (I always preferred Pepsi over Coke). I stopped eating candy bars, chips, and all other junk food. I even stopped drinking my nightly cocktail. I confess, however, I didn’t give up my weekend cocktails. Come on, you didn’t expect me to give up every vice in my life, did you?
My Strategy for Weight Loss
I did the one thing that always works for me to help get my eating habits on track and to lose weight. I started using the Lose It! app on my iPhone again. This was the same tool I used back in 2015 when I lost over 40 pounds! It doesn’t work for everyone but counting calories to lose weight works wonders for me.
The Lose It! App is like a magic weight loss button. If I use it, I’ll lose it – period. In just four weeks of using it I’m already down 10 pounds. I’m confident I’ll reach my goal of 170 lbs. before Christmas.
1/14/19 Update: I have lost 26 pounds just by counting calories using the Lose It! app. You can read about my weight loss plan here.
What I also like about the app is that I can lose weight while still enjoying things I like. It’s all about limiting your calories! As a side note, a nutrition professor put this theory to a test eight years ago. He managed to lose 27 pounds simply by counting calories while still eating mostly junk food! In fact, his diet was dubbed the “Twinkie Diet.”
Now I’m not saying that’s a healthy way to lose weight. The point is, weight loss is all about calories in and calories out. You can literally lose weight eating junk food or even fast food. It’s all about limiting your calories. Coincidentally, I’m limiting myself to the same number of calories as that professor – no more than 1,800 calories per day. This is the same strategy I employed back in 2015 when I lost 40 pounds and managed to keep it off for almost two years.
I have not become a health nut by any means. I still avoid vegetables like the plague (except spinach) and the only fruit I eat is apples, grapefruit, and an occasional banana or avocado. I don’t buy into the organic hype and I don’t eat tons of healthy food in general.
I simply eat in moderation and try to replace all the really crappy food I used to eat with not so crappy food. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Instead of having a 10-piece chicken McNugget and large french fries for lunch at McDonald’s, one of my favorite go-to meals, I’ll eat a small portion of frozen chicken tenders at home with a small portion of garlic mashed potatoes. The total calories will be right around 500. It’s probably not the ideal diet but it works. I’m certainly eating a lot healthier than I was!
I’m going into detail on this to give some of you who are trying to lose weight some inspiration. You don’t have to become a health nut to lose weight and be healthier. Watch your total calories and try to replace your bad foods with better foods – even if the improvement is only slightly better. It’s progress.
So What’s the Verdict – Do I Have Nonalcoholic Fatty Disease or Not?
I had been on my new diet for almost a week when I went back to the doctor’s office to be retested and to have my liver ultrasound. Praise God I got good news!
My ALT and AST liver enzymes were much lower. Take a look:
My liver ultrasound came back perfectly normal. They didn’t find any evidence at all of fatty liver disease! This actually surprised me as I thought they’d find “something.” I can’t tell you how relieved I was.
As my doctor suspected all along, I was perfectly normal and my liver was just fine. He did encourage me, however, to continue to eat better and to try to lose weight. He said eating better and losing weight will only help my liver. He told me he’d see me next year for my annual physical.
1/14/19 Update: After losing 26 pounds, my ALT and AST number improved dramatically! They are both now towards the low end of the normal range!
This whole saga has been a much-needed wake-up call. I thank God for this experience. It was just the warning I needed to get my act together. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my old ways. Sure my diet may slip here and there but I don’t think I’ll ever eat as bad as I was eating. The fact that my liver enzymes were elevated at all tells me my liver is probably sensitive to my diet. If ever go back to my old ways, I may very well be easily susceptible to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It’s not worth risking it!
Next week I have my annual echo and checkup with my local EP. For whatever reason, I do all my health checkups in the fall. After my cardio appointment, I should be good to go for another year (knock on wood). I’ll be sure to post an update after my echo and EP appointment. Until then, God Bless and I wish you good health and NSR!