Going From Good to Great

Scripps Health patient Ray DePaola brought his cholesterol to a healthy range through nutrition and exercise

Close up image of man running on a trail in an outdoor setting

It was not until he had what he thought was a heart attack that Ray DePaola started to take better care of himself. Now, he is no longer content with good. He wants to be in the best health possible.

Ray DePaola was 35 years old when his father had open heart surgery and died shortly thereafter. Because heart disease runs in families, this would have been a good time for Mr. DePaola to take a more careful look at his own lifestyle habits. But he waited for 15 years, until he had no choice but to pay attention.

“I ended up in the hospital when I was 50 because I was having what felt like a minor heart attack, but was actually a strained muscle,” says Mr. DePaola. “This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was then that I discovered my numbers were off the chart.”

Nutritional counsel from Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine

Mr. DePaola was frightened by what he learned after his hospital visit. His cholesterol was a dangerously high 300. (Under 200 is desirable.) His triglycerides registered an alarming 900. (Less than 120 is good.)

Regimens of cholesterol- lowering medicines helped somewhat, but he was bothered by side effects of muscular and skeletal pain. Luckily, Mr. DePaola’s family doctor had one more idea.

“My doctor knew of a lipid clinic at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine,” Mr. DePaola explains. “He told me to go see Dr. Douglas Triffon there. During my first visit, Dr. Triffon pulled up a chair and sat down with me. He said, by looking at my numbers, he could tell what I like to eat: bread, pasta, white rice, sugar."

“Then he took out a piece of paper, made a list of all those foods and said, ‘Here’s what you’re not going to eat any more.’ I still have that list on my refrigerator.”

Combining better nutrition with the right exercise

Dr. Triffon told Mr. DePaola that, with diet and exercise, he could bring his cholesterol into a healthy range and perhaps reverse the buildup in his arteries. Mr. DePaola took it as a personal challenge to improve his health, and Dr. Triffon has helped keep him on course.

“My numbers improved and, for the next few years, I was content with my progress,” Mr. DePaola notes. “But I am no longer content with good. I want to be in the best health possible.”

Mr. DePaola’s total cholesterol is down to 180, but he wants to do better. He recently joined the Fit and Trim program at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine and is working with a personal trainer and dietitian to focus his efforts even more. He’s lost weight but, more importantly, he just feels better.

“It’s so important to listen to your body and pay attention to the clues around you. I might have avoided a serious heart condition if I had changed my life a lot sooner. But it’s never too late to start.”

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