Fitbit helps Bountiful man discover dangerous cholesterol level

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BOUNTIFUL — It's an idyllic scene: the Cales family is ready for Christmas.

Until Austin discovered something was terribly wrong.

"I was planning our future without him thinking, 'If something happens to him, I still have to carry on with these three kids, and what am I gonna do?" said Brittany Cales, Austin's wife.

Austin Cales noticed his heart rate was high on his fitbit. "My resting heart rate was mid-80s," he said. "And I'd been tired, just kind of worn out a little bit, and my wife was like, 'You need to go see somebody.'"

His doctor also found an abnormality on his EKG and ordered more testing. The diagnosis?

"My cholesterol was crazy high," he said.

Though diabetic, Austin is just 33 and otherwise healthy. He wondered how this happened, so he asked his doctor. "Is this the result of me eating gas station hot dogs? Like what's going on with this? And he said, 'No, it's just genetics.'"

For years, doctors thought HDL, or good cholesterol, protected us against heart attack and stroke. But the study, by the University of Maryland, changes the advice doctors have been giving millions of patients. It also helps explain why the drug industry has not been able to develop a drug that cuts deaths from heart disease by boosting HDL levels.

Dr. Joseph Muhlestein of Intermountain Medical Center said, "It's still not good to have extremely low good cholesterol, but pharmacologically raising it has not appeared to be beneficial."

The study's author says good cholesterol should move into third place, behind bad cholesterol and triglycerides when weighing your cardiovascular risks. The takeaway? Know your bad cholesterol, or LDL. "If it's high, it should be managed and treated," Muhlestein said.

Austin Cales stood in his kitchen holding his 'old man pill box,' as he called it. "Every day I've got my bevy of pills I take." After just two weeks on medication, Austin's cholesterol is under control, and thankful, life is back to normal.

"You want to be able to see your little kids grow up and be there for them and be there for those life events," Austin Cales said.

Now Brittany Cales can stop worrying.

He said, "Thanks, Honey, for caring." She teased, "I do care. Of course I care, Dummy."

If your high cholesterol isn't genetic, exercise is a proven cure, along with using olive oil in your diet instead of other fats.


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