Six years ago, almost to the day, I had a heart attack. It wasn’t much of an attack, as cardiac events go — it was myocarditis, after all. It wasn’t caused by blockage, or high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, or any of the USUAL things that trigger arrests in 31-year- old males. I spent three days in the hospital being very bored (and a little scared, yes), and came home fit as a fiddle. Well… the strings needed to be tightened a bit, because the drugs they wanted me to take were worse than the myocarditis, but as soon as I ditched the battery of useless meds (including a blood-pressure regulator that prevented me from running up stairs, doing more than a couple of push-ups, or getting anything else up, if you catch my drift) I was fine.

They measured my cholesterol while I was in the hospital, and it was around 100. I was spectacularly healthy, and the ratio of HDL to LDL supported that. I’d been low-carb dieting at the time, and exercising upwards of 10 hours per week. Then I caught the “Luke Skywalker” flu — the virus made it all the way to the reactor core, and my heart muscle swelled up. That’s what myocarditis is: a viral or bacterial infection and resulting inflammation of the heart muscle.

Understand, though, that my Dad spent at least two decades being obese, had myocarditis in his 40’s, and then had a massive and quite fatal coronary at age 56. Regardless of how healthy I felt back in 1999, I also felt that there was this hereditary sword hanging over my head, and if I couldn’t move out of the way, perhaps I could put on a helmet.

So ever since 1999 I’ve been interested in my cholesterol levels. Some of you may remember the “guess Howard’s total cholesterol level” contest I ran for three or four years in a row each winter. Sadly, I’ve never dieted-and-exercised as effectively as I did back in 1999, so the levels have been as high as 235. Back when I was twenty-five years old I had my cholesterol measured, and it was around 200, maybe 205. The few times I’ve been tested while low-carbing, It’s been down around 150 to 175.

As far as I can tell, then, my cholesterol levels are high when I’m on the high-carb, high- junk, 21st-century fast-food-forager diet, and healthy or low when I’m doing some variant of the low-carb thing.

The latest round of results bear that out. I’ve been low-carbing, working out at least twice a week, and enjoying staple items like bacon-wrapped grilled chicken breast, butter-fried cheese, bacon and eggs, and ham-and-egg-drop soup for 16 days now. This morning I took a home cholesterol test, and was almost off the chart… on the low end. The chart only went down to “21 = 119” (a reading of “21” on the chart-calibrated device corresponds to a total cholesterol level of 119) and the fuzzy purple line generated by a few drops of my blood only went up to about 20.5. Eh. Call it 21. That puts my total cholesterol at or just south of 119, which is the lowest measurement I’ve had since 1999.

Needless to say, I’m pleased. My weight may have plateau’d for the last week, but I feel great, my clothing fits better, and now I know that my cholesterol has retreated from the borders of the Undiscovered Country.

18 thoughts on “Cholesterocity”

  1. I need to get back on a low-carb diet, but bad. Like you, I find that low-carb works for me. I just can’t quite kick myself in the butt hard enough to get moving. I know I need to lose weight, drop fat and lower my cholesterol, but actually doing it seems to be an uphill battle.
    Any words of encouragement to get me going, Howard? I’m pushing 299 right now, and need to lose about 49 pounds.

  2. How about some of your recipes? In your copious amounts of spare time, that is….

    I’m thinking maybe some helpings of “This is what has worked for me” might help those of us out here who wish we were doing what you’re doing.

    1. This morning’s was faux-miso ham-and-egg-drop soup.

      1/4 cup of vegetarian broth (Swanson’s brand)
      1 can of chicken broth (Walmart brand)
      2 tbsp kikkoman soy sauce

      Boil. break an egg into the boiling pot, and stir until it’s all stringy. Add a cup or so of chopped ham. Boil for another couple of minutes, then serve hot.


  3. bacon-wrapped grilled chicken breast??? Lucky b@stard.

    How are your kidneys doing? That’s the biggest “oooh, don’t!” I hear about Atkins-type diets.

    1. *sigh*

      I only have ONE kidney, and it’s fine. I’m not prone to kidney stones, and I’m getting plenty of fluids. There’s no danger whatsoever. The ketosis process, by which fats are metabolized into ketones by the liver and burned by the body as fuel is how your body loses weight — it’s the ONLY way to turn fat into fuel.

      The kidneys enter into it when your body doesn’t use all the ketone fuel — it ends up in the urine, the sweat, and sometimes the saliva. This is why low-carb diets are so effective — excess fuel is NOT turned back into fat. Once it’s a ketone, you “use it or lose it.” Surplus sugars, on the other hand, end up turned into fat if you don’t burn them up.

      Burning fat for fuel requires additional water, however, so you have to make sure to drink lots.

      1. Heart attack, one kidney, all before age 40, dude. How can you afford health insurance? My wife has some comparatively minor issues, and we can’t change companies now. If I lose this coverage, our goose is cooked.

    1. yes that’s what it was. Yes they’re usually fatal. Fortunately we didn’t know that until after he was better and out of the hospital. The experience was scary enough as it was.

      Howard wasn’t killed by it because he was in fantastic physical shape at the time.

      1. so you can really raise your chances of survival by being fit? I was scared of that disease. They say it just happens and you just die and there’s nothing you can do about it. Very fortunate, indeed.

        1. It kills without warning because the inflammation may be severe, and if you already have arterial blockage, your case of stomach flu suddenly becomes a full-blown coronary, and you need CPR or you’ll die.

          Stay in good shape and the myocardital boogeyman can’t get you. Eat your broccoli!

  4. You’re inspiring me to go with my gut feelings on diet-related stuff rather than letting myself be influenced by the constantly changing “health” standards. While I had no luck with the Atkins, I definitely need to get back on the wagon with avoiding processed foods, particularly sugars.

    1. Ditching starches and sugars is what I needed to do. Low-carb diets help me develop the discipline to do it. Other diets (like a vegetarian diet that forces you to fill up on broccoli and walnuts, or some such) may be just as effective for other people.

      The secret, I think, is getting in touch with what your body needs, and learning to listen to your TRUE appetite, rather than the munchies. Developing that sense is difficult for a lot of us.

  5. I’d like to point out that you’ve used a Star Wars metaphor and a Star Trek (albeit hijacked from the Bard) metaphor in the same post. That’s like… like… neglecting to pick up extra dilythium crystals before leaving Hoth. Or worse, letting a Cylon tap into your flux capacitor! Or [joke here — this is boring].

  6. That’s rather bizarre.

    You’re eating all the stuff which I’ve been told will RAISE my cholesterol, clog my arteries, and lead me to an early grave, and your cholesterol is dropping like a stone.

    The problem with low-carb is that it means no pasta, no cheesecake, no riskrem…. I need to lose weight, but how can I give up such FOOD?

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