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.