I have heart disease. GOOD.

To pursue early retirement is to deny death.

Think about it. Since the ego abhors contemplating its own annihilation, what we say is, “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in an office,” when what we mean is that we want to fill our lives with as much fun as we can before we die.

I’ve certainly shot for that much fun. Jesus, have I ever. But certain kinds of fun are good for one’s health. Others aren’t.

Duh, right?


You see that picture? That’s a CT scan of my heart from ten days ago. Got the results last Thursday. The little white dot is an arterial calcification in my left anterior descending (LAD) artery. It means the artery is partially blocked by plaque.

Which is DANGEROUS AS SHIT.

The LAD is the most critical blood-pipe of the entire ticker. A heart attack arising from LAD blockage is nicknamed the “widowmaker” for its high fatality risk. When it happens you feel your heart die in your chest. Fortunately my blockage is at the very low end of moderate,1 but nevertheless I have an undesirably high risk factor for the good ol’ Crushing Chest Pain.

How’d that calcification get there? In short: I put it there. I’ve just turned fifty and I’ve had high cholesterol my whole life; and furthermore, an imbalance between the bad and good kinds. This imbalance arises from a combination of genetics and a diet that’s too high in unhealthy oils and delicious cheeseburgers fatty meat and processed carbs. The thing is, though, that my cholesterol’s been borderline enough to where my active lifestyle in theory could’ve kept my arteries washed clean.

It hasn’t. Conventional wisdom might be that if you’re thin and healthy and you exercise a lot you can eat whatever you want, but plaque has slowly built up in my LAD anyway. Plaque deposits calcify over time. So there you have it.

I fucked up by turning down an important preventive option: cholesterol-lowering statins. My doctors and I have discussed them throughout the years, but since I don’t like taking drugs2 and since statins can have unwanted side effects, I’ve refrained. Now, in hindsight, it’s clear I should’ve been on statins all along.

Two days ago when I got my scan results I mentioned to my doc that I’ve known I have high cholesterol since my early twenties. He nodded and said, “OK, it’s probably been a slow burn.” Which despite the word “burn” I found…heartening. I interpreted what he said as meaning: if this blockage has taken my whole life to get to this size, then I feel good about my chances of slowing it down or even halting its growth.

But that begs a question: how bad would it be if I hadn’t been such a cardio junkie for so many years?

Bad enough. I could very well be dead.


Now: why in the gargoyle group-fuck would I say having heart disease is good? To answer that I oughtta get why it sucks out of the way first.

What sucks is that I could die relatively young and in an abrupt and terribly painful and embarrassing way that, worst of all, would traumatize my wife and kid. And between now and whenever I kick off, my quality of life could suffer.

That’s reality; that’s what I have no control over. Every ramification, though, is mine to use to actually IMPROVE my life, but only IF I have the self-discipline to carry out my intentions.

And do I?  You gotta admit my scan is a hell of an inspiration. Heart blockages are treatable and possibly reversible to a degree as long as dramatic lifestyle changes are made. If the pursuit and achievement of FIRE has taught me one thing, it’s that I’m capable of dramatic lifestyle changes.

Which leads us to the good stuff.

I’m finally motivated enough to shuck shitty food.

Junk food is engineered to be addictive. I’m no fiend for the stuff, yet I continue to eat more than’s good for me despite knowing I shouldn’t…which is why every time I reach for something unhealthy I feel guilty about it. Every single time. Hallmark of addiction, man, which I won’t have to carry around anymore. Might sound trite, but it’s gonna be an enormous load off.

Switching to a Mediterranean-style diet via a method like this one will help me feel even more fit.3 Don’t get me wrong…I don’t feel UNFIT. I feel HEALTHY, in fact. Eating healthier should increase my sense of well-being even though being asymptomatic doesn’t mean I’m out of danger. And there’s no reason it can’t be delicious. I just ordered a big recipe book.

Gonna go pretty much vegetarian, in fact, with maybe a monthly cheat meal. And given my horrid streak of self-righteousness, I’ll use that as further justification for feeling smug.

Cutting back on my alcohol intake is probably a good idea.

Yeah…it seems sensible for me to go from a few tiki drinks a week to a glass or two of Cabernet every so often and a Dark & Stormy when I really have something to celebrate.

And hell, I LIKE Cabernet. Big bold Chilean stuff that marches up and announces its intentions and knocks your palate on its ass. Or knocks your ass on its palate. Or whatever.

Getting high = no problem.

Smoking is definitely out, but I never liked that anyway. Cannabutter is out too, as is CBD oil, but vaping every so often is fine–the heavier the concentrate the better.4 Edibles have always been my go-to, so the ideal thing is to switch over to eating THC as CBD-free as possible in tablets or what have you.5 Reason for all this being: that various of the oils and non-THC compounds in weed/hemp have been shown to interfere with the actions of statins.

I get to run and road bike even more.

Boo-ya! I’m one those freaks to whom running feels good. A few minutes into a run and my sense of self disappears and I’m GONE. It’s meditative and head-clearing and I enjoy the pleasant tightness in my legs afterwards.

Cliche: this is a wake-up call to focus more on love and less on silly insignificant shit.

An example. Once a year an old friend and I head out to Four Corners and spend a couple of weeks exploring the desert. Yesterday I called him and gave him the news and told him that now our friendship and these trips are more important to me than ever. He, of course, agreed.

And there are my family relationships. Won’t belabor that one; it’s obvious.

I get to learn not to give a fuck about aging.

Big difference between aging and getting old. You hear all the time that you oughtta act your old age, but that’s BULLSHIT. Let me hammer that in:

BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT.

It’s bullshit. Because:

I’m a case study in how youth can be a function of performance.

Hypothesis: if you used it yesterday, you can probably use it today. Viz., when I’m on my daily run at an 8:30/mile pace and I go bombing past people half my age who are straining, at that moment age ceases to matter.

I’ve got mentor cred now, or at least of a sort.

Case in point: you’re reading this, and I hope it proves cautionary enough to convince you to take better care of your heart than I have.

When I’m exercising with young’uns they occasionally say, “I hope I’m as active as you are when I’m your age.” Until I got this diagnosis my answer was always, “You little bastard, watch out…because I’m about to steamroller your infantile ass.” But now it’s, “You little bastard…you better get started now, because if you wait til you’re fifty it’ll be fifty times more difficult. Let me explain why.”

I also get to pass this knowledge to my kid. I haven’t done a good job educating her about nutrition. Or about the importance of structured meals, for that matter…dinner is usually an hour-long process of each of us grazing out of the fridge while we do things that take us to separate parts of the house. I hope I can change that.

I have a legitimate excuse to cram in more sex than ever.

“Cram in.” Ha-ha. But in stark contrast:

This cements my end-of-life plan.

I mentioned the desert. When I can barely do anything anymore I’m gonna write a few letters and crush my cell phone and make one last drive across the country to a certain canyon I know of that from the looks and archaeology of it has seldom seen people in the last seven hundred years.

Grottoes of seep and hanging fern lie under the canyon rim. There’s one such grotto, although I haven’t found it yet, that opens itself to the clear light of evening. Swallows emerge from hives of mud and thatch to flit among their kin in the sunset shadow. On the wall, etchings of game and dead gods. In the dust, zigzagged potsherds.

The sun erodes to nothing. A shotgun pops. The birds wheel away. All falls dark and silent.


Right. And how do I follow THAT?

With something mundane, I suppose.

I’ve long known that being financially independent means I can afford nicer food, even if I haven’t bought it as much as I should. Loading up on nuts and veggies and heart-healthy supplements is clearly more expensive than loading up on the cheap carbohydrates that dominate the shelves, and I’m thinking my grocery bill just doubled. But that’s no problem.


Another cliche: the five steps of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Seems to me there’s a sixth one the cliche stupidly omits: DEALING. As you can see from everything I’ve written here, I’m hoping to skip straight past the first five stages and devote all my energy to the sixth: i.e., dealing with this bitch on my terms.

But that said, maybe everything I’ve written here is only a manifestation of denial. Telling myself stuff I wish I could believe. A doctor would know; I imagine they’ve seen long lists of confident resolutions a million times. Does anybody ever stick to them?

OK. Well, hold my Cabernet. Watch this.


I’ve been extremely healthy my entire life. Extremely.

Am I still?

It’s unpleasant to look down at my chest and think, “Two inches under that skin lives an ant-sized nodule of calcium that’s trying to kill me.”

It is REAL. There is NO DENYING IT.

What’s also real is this: I have a good outlook if I stick to the plan. My grandfather, for instance, had two massive heart attacks in his mid-forties.6 This was in the late seventies, mind you. They cracked his chest and grafted some new arteries in from somewhere—his ass, judging from his post-op behavior—and he started eating clean and walking eighteen holes of golf a day and lived until his mid-eighties, when the Alzheimer’s finally got him.

Death may be inevitable, but it doesn’t have to happen NOW. So fuck that ant-sized nodule of calcium that’s trying to kill me. I should come up with a name for it. Something that’ll help me put it in its place.

Hmm. A final cliche comes to mind: “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”

So I guess I’ll call it  “Nietzche.”


Edit: Summary of measures I’m taking.

  • Running.
  • Brazilian jiujitsu.
  • 99.9% plant-based diet.
  • Pravastatin — 40mg daily.
  • Psyllium husk — two tablespoons daily.
  • Apple cider vinegar — two tablespoons daily.
  • Vitamin D3 — 5000 IU/daily
  • Vitamin K2 — 180mcg/daily.
  • Probiotic — have taken regularly for quite a while.
  • Kombucha — same. Typically one bottle/day.
  • Turmeric/cucurmin — same. 1000mg daily.
  • Glucosamine sulfate — same. 1000mg daily.

 

Footnotes

  1. A calcium score of 103 on a scale of zero to >400 where >400 is extremely severe.
  2. OK, OK, OK…I know what you’re thinking.
  3. For those who don’t know, a Mediterranean diet rich in veggies and healthy oils and sparing of meat is infinitely better for you than a US-style diet of ground extruded lips and assholes.
  4. Which, I’ve got some Apothecary Clementine Ambrosia right now that’s a flat-out elephant stomp.
  5. Which I happen to have in stock as well. Be Prepared.
  6. Why are heart attacks always massive? Is there any such thing as a small one?

Author: ER Dude

Sick of your job? After a thirteen-year career, Early Retirement Dude fled corporate America for good. You can do it too! Visit http://EarlyRetirementDude.com or email EarlyRetirementDude@gmail.com.

45 thoughts

  1. Take that statin, keep on running, and you’ve got a good shot of living longer than your grandfather did. You’ll miss the cheeseburgers, but that’s better than missing out on years of life.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

      1. Not sure where to start.

        I’m sorry you find yourself here but thank you for sharing and being such a positive inspiration.

        Consider my ass kicked. 43 and just over 1 year in to ER. Partially because stress driven high blood pressure was threatening to end me. Too much work, too much travel, poor diet and no exercise. Overweight, bad diet and stress is bad. It will come for you.

        A year in my blood pressure is back to healthy but my weight is about the same. Got off red meat almost entirely 4 years ago. Saw massive improvements in GI health. You won’t crave that burger after a while and will be stunned how bland it is when you do have it. Turns out most of the flavour we like is seasoning. Corn and black bean tacos all dressed up taste almost the same as beef and feel so much better. Check out Fat Sick and Nearly Dead on Netflix. I have never felt better than when I was drinking those green veggie smoothies. Funny to write that. If its true why the hell did I stop? Must reintroduce.

        You have inspired me to cut down and then cut out the junk food I am addicted to. Except chocolate. But I’ll go easy on it. One other thing. Someone told me that if you stop eating meat after a while your body stops producing the enzymes that break it down in your stomach. So when you do eat a big meat meal you get cramps. Don’t know about the science but can report the experience is real. Had bacon with breakfast the other day after no bacon for years, didn’t want to offend the host. Cramps all day. Irony is the host told us later he personally eats vegetarian. Doh

        The hard part will be getting my ass moving in a real workout. Just always get bored after a while and drift away from it. Time to grey serious.

        Thanks for your brutal honesty. Your personal warts and all life lessons are greatly appreciated. I know you have the spirit and drive to live a long and successful life. I’ll be cheering for you.

        ATL

        1. >You have inspired me to cut down and then cut out the junk food I am addicted to.

          My first reaction was FUCK YES! You and I don’t know each other, of course, but if the effort I put into this article has made a positive difference to even one person, whether physically or mentally, then every second of it was worthwhile. Thanks so much for that.

          >I’ll be cheering for you.

          And I’ll be cheering for you. Let’s stay in touch so we can hold each other accountable. I’m at earlyretirementdude@gmail.com.

  2. The f-ing curse of a runner – You can usually eat whatever you want and look healthy and fit, but that shit still comes home. I wish you luck with the dietary changes, going to lean meat and vegetables ain’t all that bad.

    We changed a year and a half ago when doctors pointed out that our shitty diet was part of what led to the Mrs. getting her nasty injury that messed her up for a solid year. Yay for finding out in our 30s?

    Take care

    1. >shit still comes home

      Ain’t that the truth. Not just in matters of health, either.

      >Yay for finding out in our 30s?

      Yeah. See my comment below about another “yay”-type diagnosis I got a few years ago.

  3. While statins are the recommended drug it isn’t based on compelling evidence that they prevent heart disease. Rather they are prescribed because Iowering cholesterol seems like a good idea. As far as I know only one meta analysis shows a correlation between statins and lower mortality. And meta analyses, combining unrelated research studies, is the least reliable form of empiracal evidence. I take statins, but even my doctor admitted nobody knows if they really improve your chances. kind of a, can’t hurt anything, approach. But with all the steps you are implementing you are doing all you can. The real secret to living to 100 is out your hands, it is already coded in your DNA.

  4. I just got a writeup with some good advice from a friend who prefers to stay anonymous. I replied to him in person and I’d like to post that reply here.

    —–

    Thanks! I very much appreciate the writeup. That’s excellent advice. I feel powerless about some things, of course, but knowledge helps me regain a sense of control.

    I’ve been reading the science. Current research is indeed all over the map.

    I currently go to a medical clinic where mental, nutritional, and medical care are all integrated. The practitioner I see is a vegan distance runner. Tomorrow I’m making an appointment with a local heart specialist so I can get a second and hopefully more complete pass on nutrition/treatment/prognosis. Whatever he recommends is what I’m gonna go with.

    In addition to the statins I’ve started K2 and D3. For the last few months I’ve been taking turmeric and apple cider vinegar and psyllium husk. I’ve discontinued all supplemental calcium. As of yesterday I’m now a vegetarian except for extremely extremely extremely minor things like the bovine gelatin in gel caps. May treat myself to a burger once in a blue moon, but it’s gonna be literally a blue moon. Like: Father’s day.

    As far as finding out the situation now: six-ish years ago I got diagnosed with bipolar II disorder after a long series of severe depressions and a bunch of suicidal ideation. I’ve since been diagnosed multiple times. I’d been struggling with these symptoms since I hit puberty. People ask me how I feel about my diagnosis and I tell them it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Imagine thinking you’re broken and alone for thirty-five years until somebody comes up and says, “We can treat this. You’re gonna feel a lot better. Here’s the manual.”

    I feel like this is the same kind of thing.

  5. Well… That’s sobering.

    More power to you and a perfect example of why you want to live it to the fullest every day.

    Fuck that thing… Put it in it’s place and keep on going.

    Looking forward to clinking some glasses of Cabernet sometime!

  6. While it’s generally accepted we can get heart disease (atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis), it’s not accepted that heart disease can be reversed. Yes, reversed.

    My younger brother died of a heart attack, my sister has had two heart attacks. I gave her a book by Dr Esselstyn “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”. She took the book to her cardiologist and the good doc said Dr Esselstyn is a quack.

    Take a few minutes and watch one of his talks on Youtube.

    1. Yeah, “reversed” may have been too strong a word. My understanding is that it’s possible to decrease the size of the blockage by reducing the amount of cholesterol trapped under the cap. That said, the blockage itself can’t be wholly reversed. I also understand that it’s possible to re-plastify the arterial walls somewhat. I’m still researching this, but my starting point was a Q&A from Harvard’s medical program that doesn’t seem to be quackery.

      Edit: also this from Harvard.

  7. Kick it’s ass. Keep running, maybe add more cycling in as I’ve done since I’m not too far behind you in age. Do the work. And I changed my diet pretty drastically 7 years ago and feel better than ever. I could always do better as I rely on Clif bars and Gu’s too often on my long rides, but overall I’m way more fit than ever and am kicking ass in my local group rides.

    No shortcuts, you know the score. Good luck!

    1. Thanks!

      Yeah, road biking is a joy and I look forward to doing more. Trying to rationalize buying a new bike–a lightweight one that’s more modern and sleeker than my Surly Pacer. Seems silly, though. 🙂

      One of these days we’ll have to do a ride together.

  8. The China Study is a good read if you want some additional motivation. The cliff notes are: eating a plant based diet helps/prevents almost everything….

    I have borderline cholesterol ~37 yrs old and basically flipped to 95%+ plant based a few years ago…

  9. Yes, small heart attacks also exist. Sometimes they’re so small that people don’t notice them; sometimes they’re only found much later as a small scar on the heart (which can for example be seen on an ECG when the electrical current flows around the scar).

    1. I’m taking a stress test in a few days that oughtta reveal a lot–especially whether I’ll need to make further lifestyle changes such as–shit, do I hope this doesn’t happen–doing less-intensive cardio. But I have perfect blood pressure and a resting heart rate in the low 60s, so I’m hopeful that won’t be necessary.

  10. With an almost vegan diet, you should consider adding vitamin B12 to your plan.

    Another source to consider is Dr. Greger. He may be overselling (“reverse heart disease”) and be biased vegan. But given that you’re pretty much going for his recommendations anyway, you may want to check out the details (like B12).

    Enjoy your new diet and keep going! In my experience, social pressure is the biggest challenge.

    Also, given this is my first comment here, thanks for the unique perspective you’re adding to the FIRE community! 🙂

    1. >social pressure is the biggest challenge.

      Yeah. As far as temptation, right now being around people eating meat doesn’t make me feel deprived, but who knows what that’ll be like in the future. But as far as friends pressuring me: I feel like that’s analogous to somebody pressuring a reformed alcoholic to take just one beer. The thing of telling somebody “just one isn’t gonna kill you” definitely casts a friendship in a different light.

      >thanks for the unique perspective you’re adding to the FIRE community!

      I really appreciate that. I think many if not most aspects of FIRE have been adequately discussed, so I’m trying to hard to keep people entertained and share some of my innermost stuff with him. Btw, writing anonymously makes it easier to do that.

      1. In my experience just stay quiet about it until necessary and all the commenting from friends is minimized.

        The words vegetarian and vegan trigger people for some reason. I say flexetarian if pressed. Or just that I don’t eat red meat. Seems to avoid most of the peanut gallery comments.

        Another thing I have found helps defuse the topic is to say “its not a political thing, enjoy your meat, I used to loved a good steak until I discovered it was making me sick like I have an allergy” Then pivot to a new topic.

        Most people seem to assume you are somehow judging them since you don’t eat meat. Defuse that and it gets easier socially. Being open to a bit of fish and chicken now and then helps dinner hosts not feel intimidated. You get to define it. Use flexetarian and be abit flexible and socially its a breeze.

        ATL

        1. >In my experience just stay quiet about it until necessary and all the commenting from friends is minimized.

          Yeah. That smugness/self-righteousness comment was mostly a joke, but also a reminder to myself of exactly what you say. If the peanut gallery starts bombarding me with too many peanuts I’m comfortable with saying, “Hey, wish I could partake. It’s doctor’s orders.”

          I’ve told my family and a couple of my closest friends about the diagnosis, but of course they’ve been supportive.

  11. Sounds like you’ve got a great plan. Just curious, what prompted you to get the scan in the first place. Did you have any symptoms?
    I have high cholesterol and I’m thinking about getting a scan.

    1. >Just curious, what prompted you to get the scan in the first place

      Crazy chain of events. Started Brazilian jiujitsu > started doing hypertrophy lifting > high-protein diet to aid building muscle mass > routine bloodwork revealed cholesterol spike > doc ordered scan > scan revealed blockage.

      >I have high cholesterol and I’m thinking about getting a scan.

      Do it now.

  12. Sorry to hear about the blockage “Nietzche”!

    Best of luck with the life changes hoping they improve and lengthen your life.

    The widow maker comment reminded me of the TV show Deadliest Catch where one of the captains Sig Hansen had one on the show in 2016 and was lucky to survive. That is a scary thing to find out. I am glad you got an early warning to help steer you in the right direction. Sig is back crab fishing still doing his stressful job of running a crab boat and chain smoking. Your action plan seem like a better approach.

    Live long and prosper!

    1. >Sig Hansen

      Dude, that’s EXACTLY whom I thought of. Love that show. Have you noticed how much Sig has aged since the show started? He’s only three years older than me but he’s also a hundred years older than me, too.

      Much obliged for the best wishes.

  13. Thanks for sharing ERD. Truly inspirational, motivational, and please use me in your “street cred” count.

    Best of luck plowing through this detour in living your best live.

    Your story does a great job of something that most would consider a huge negative into another challenge that I’m sure you’ll conquer.

    1. >another challenge that I’m sure you’ll conquer.

      My daughter plays roller derby. Head coach of her team just, as they say, “lost her battle” with breast cancer.

      I don’t like that phrase. Never have. If you buy into the idea that death is your last chance to create an act of beauty, she didn’t just WIN her battle…she fucking CRUSHED it. I could go on and on about how brave and inspiring and so forth she was, but I’m sure you get the idea.

      Point being: even if this turns out to be far bigger and badder than the people who know what they’re talking about are telling me, I could do a lot lot worse than to live up to her example.

      1. Your daughter’s coach sounded like a wonderful person. It’s really neat to see extraordinary people take these setbacks in stride and see how there impact lives on after they have passed away.

        Wishing you the best. I’m sure your stories will have similar impacts to people you may never see or meet.

    1. >YOU URGENTLY NEED TO READ THE DIET DELUSION BY GARY TAUBES.

      How come? Can you give me a flyby? Are you speaking from personal experience? Looking for all the advice I can get.

  14. Thanks for the really informative post, ER Dude. It’s given me a great deal to think about. I think I’d like to have the same heart scan that you had. Can you tell us the specific name of the test? I’m guessing it was something much more involved than the usual ECG.

    Thanks again!

  15. Hi there, thanks for your posts. Quick note on something that may help. I’m around your age and almost 20 years ago my cholesterol was close to 400, my dad had calcification as well, several similarities with what you are describing (hence the decision to comment). I’ve been taking red rice yeast ever since and cut the cholesterol numbers to less than half within a few months. It has lower side effects than statins and worth taking a look into. I hope it helps!

    1. That’s good advice–thanks for sharing it. I was aware of red yeast rice but hadn’t yet looked into it. I’ve just been sitting here reading about it in a Harvard Medical School publication, while I see the benefits, the possibility of toxins and the actual statin content are scaring me off. That said, you obviously got results. Did you clean up your diet and make other lifestyle changes, or was it just the RYR?

      1. I did cardio at least 4 hours a week (plus weights) and had not eaten red meat in over 20 years when this happened. Apparently, mostly a genetic thing, although I have since improved exercise and diet habits. My good cholesterol is almost 100, which helps. There are lots of back and forth arguments around that study and other ones. I can tell you that, in the 15 years I’ve taken it with a naturopath’s supervision, it’s been fine. I did a scan similar to yours about a year ago and had no calcification. Happy to chat via e-mail if there is any additional info that can be helpful.

        1. Genetic here too. I’m 5’11” and 155 pounds and a distance runner, but I’ve always had high cholesterol. I’d love to chat with you more, but if we do, how about doing it here? One reason I put this post up is to share info and perhaps educate people about hidden dangers.

          I think I neglected to mention why I got the heart scan. It was a chain of fortunate events. I started jiujitsu last October and quickly realized I needed to get stronger. So I started a hypertrophy lifting program and ate a lot more protein. Chicken and whey, mainly. During my routine checkup we discovered my cholesterol had spiked. My doc suggested a heart scan. The heart scan revealed the calcification.

          So God knows what would’ve happened if I hadn’t taken even one of those steps. Can you imagine dropping dead at 55 or whatever despite being a cardio junkie? My best friend just told me that if this can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Which I hope the readers of this blog will pay attention to.

          1. Just thought I’d edit my numbers as I remembered I was closer to 300 than 400 in my first cholesterol test. The red rice yeast has not given me any side effects, except for one type that I took for 6 months which lowered my blood pressure (it is already low) a few times. I have since switched back to my old one. From what I read, red rice has more mild side effects than the usual statin medications. Happy to offer more details if it is helpful.

  16. Hi ERD

    I totally agree with your views. The best moment is NOW. Death is inevitable and it is the matter of living life to the fullest.

    WTK

  17. Long time.

    Within a year a switch to 95% Paleo dropped mine from 200/85 to 115/115, where it has stayed for years. The big C has me in its grips now. Maybe this and exercise just delayed it. Good luck.

    sb

  18. ERD-
    Long time reader, first time poster. I know this is a little late but…
    Gary Taubes:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html
    Basically this was the first popular ‘article’ to blow the lid off of the current national dietary guidelines. A brief summary is: DO NOT EAT CARBS (ie the Standard American Diet (SAD))-and a discussion of why. If you find the above article compelling he has a few books one that is approachable on the topic:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_We_Get_Fat

    Also an excellent discourse on cholesterol- Dr. Attia has several articles on this topic but start here:
    https://peterattiamd.com/the-straight-dope-on-cholesterol-part-i/
    Good Luck

    1. Hi there. Thanks!

      Yeah, the SAD diet is poison.

      I admittedly get lost in low-carb research, especially Attia’s, because carbohydrates are present in just about every plant-based food: legumes, fruit, nuts (to a lesser degree), etc., and refraining from carbs altogether just doesn’t seem possible. That said, eating a high fat, high protein, low-carb diet during a recent hypertrophy-type weightlifting program correlated strongly with the cholesterol spike that led me to getting the heart scan in the first place–i.e., my cholesterol levels shot up in exactly the same period as I was lifting on that diet.

      Right now I’m pursuing a diet that’s very low in processed carbs without going overboard on unrefined/complex ones. Brown rice, spelt, whole grain, popcorn (without a bunch of grease on it), etc. So I guess my strategy is trying to keep harm at bay–in other words, keep this blockage from getting worse while at the same time enjoying a diet I know I can stick to.

  19. Great blog, glad to have found it. Though I found this post late it really hits home for me.

    Familial Hypercholesterolemia runs in my family (though I’ve never personally been tested), both Grandfathers had heart attacks early in their lives (30s and 40s). A few years ago my total cholesterol hit 300 and scared the crap out of me. I was highly motivated to do some life style changes.

    Now I eat only Plant Based nutrition. It was alot easier than I expected and I became more focused/strict as I went on (now avoid processed foods and added oils, sugars and salt in addition to meat/dairy/egg). I truly don’t miss anything and my cholesterol dropped to 213 (tested after a few months of just diet changes) then to 186 (start exercising more). But honestly, and more importantly, I could feel the difference.

    It is awesome that so many comments here involve plant based nutrition. I rarely ever bring it up because it seems like food is so personal to most people.

    If you cardiovascular health is a big concern I highly recommend the books already mentioned (there are many others too) if only for information sake. The info changed my life, I believe for the better.

    Books – The China Study, How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, How Not to Die, Protienaholic, The Cheese Trap

    Documentaries (check Netflix/Prime) – Forks over Knives, The Game Changers, Food Inc.

    Good Luck and thanks for the great info on your site here

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