When I launched the move to eating real food (and began discovering what that really means), I ran to the doc and had my blood work done and urged my hubby to do the same. We expected that his cholesterol numbers would be higher than ideal. They were 4 years ago and nothing about his diet or lifestyle has changed in any way since. He still plays full-court basketball 4 -5 times per week and (until recently) still polishes off more frozen pizzas (with milk shake chasers) than anyone has a right to. He went from 234 total cholesterol to 226. His doctor said that he was probably a little higher than she would prefer, but dismissed the reading as 'not a concern.'

My numbers came back in the normal range (total cholesterol count 189). But the person who called me with the results used an alarming tone when she said "Your LDLs are high and you need to get that number down." When I received the paperwork in the mail, everything was all printed in regular fonts until you got the the LDL count, which was highlighted, bolded and underlined with the word "HIGH" bookending the number 117. Mine are HIGH at 117; my husband's at 160 are of 'not a concern'.

I am confused. (He is nine years older than I am. And he's a guy. You would think...well, at least I thought...well, I don't know what I thought, but I know that these responses were unexpected and a little inexplicable. )

So, I picked up The Great American Heart Hoax: Lifesaving Advice Your Doctor Should Tell You About Heart Disease Prevention (But Probably Never Will) by Michael Ozner, MD (a board-certified cardiologist). Dr. Ozner contends that a healthy cholesterol reading should not exceed 150 - with LDL below 70 and triglycerides below 100. (Given that, my reading IS high. And my hubby's is dangerously high.) And 150? Have you ever even heard of someone with 150 cholesterol?

Then, I had a great chat with my doctor this morning during my physical. She explained that the overall number is not very useful. Rather, the HDL to LDL ratio is important. Also the triglyceride number is important. Beyond that, though, the numbers are assessed against the overall health and family history of the individual. Neither of us has any heart disease in our personal or family histories. Neither of us is overweight or has diabetes or smokes.

All of which makes our numbers not overly important, but, apparently not unimportant either. She recommended getting all of our cholesterol numbers within the boundaries of what is considered healthy. How? First: add fish oil and back off of simple carbs. Dr Ozner's recommendation? Exercise and follow a Mediterranean diet.

Backing off the simple carbs is a chief aim of this whole real food effort for us. In three months, I go back to get tested again. I wonder what difference three months can make. Lucky for me, the local farmers' market opens this week.


Dr Ozner lists "the top foods that have been shown to have a favorable impact on cholesterol, by lowering the "bad" LDL cholesterol or by raising the "good" HDL choleserol...:
* Fruits and vegetables
* Olive oil
* Oatmeal
* Nuts (especially almonds and walnuts)
* Beans
* Cold water fish
* Red wine
* Cinnamon
* Whole grains
* Soy protein
* Plant sterol and stanol spreads