I'm Nervous to Have My Cholesterol Tested Again😅

Bad genetics, poor diet, or both?

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Sometimes I am not a smart man.

Until quite recently, I wholeheartedly believed that cheeseburgers weren’t bad for your health. And do you know why I believed this?

Because about 15 years ago, some fitness dude on the internet, who I don’t even remember, told me that “Saturated fat’s not bad for you. Eat as much as you want.”

So even though everybody else in the world was telling me “No Jason, cheeseburgers are delicious, but they are not good for you,” I refused to believe it. All because of that one random guy on the internet.

I didn’t see what the big deal was

When I looked at a cheeseburger, I saw a high-protein meal with a medley of delicious fats and carbs. The ultimate fuel for gaining muscle. I shoved them down my gullet without a second thought.

I’m exaggerating just a bit. It’s not like I was eating cheeseburgers for every meal, and I generally strayed away from fast food burgers. (Which, weirdly enough, I agreed were bad for you.) But I frequently ordered burgers from restaurants and never understood the big fuss.

I also had no problem eating pizza. Again, not all the time, but as long as I wasn’t overweight, I didn’t care.

If I made eggs in the morning, I buttered the shit out of the pan, and I added a healthy amount of cheese.

Chicken wings? Yep. Bring ’em on.

I’ve always prided myself on being a healthy eater. For the most part, I’ve done a great job. (Even though the last few paragraphs might tell a different story.)

Really though, whole foods and protein are the foundation of my diet. Fruits and vegetables have been a staple of mine forever. Healthy fats like avocado and nuts are some of my favorite foods. I avoid the processed stuff as much as possible.

I just happened to also eat a ton of saturated fats. They were the one thing I ignored with reckless abandon.

One thing that anybody close to me will tell you is that I’m really good at keeping the blinders on. Annoyingly good. Sometimes, this plays to my advantage like when I’m focusing on an urgent, important task. Sometimes to my detriment. Like ignoring saturated fats.

The data doesn’t lie

One day, in August of 2018, I went to the doctor to get my lipids checked. This is what it showed.

Total Cholesterol:

Cholesterol was high but just barely. My doc reviewed the results and offered no feedback other than “looks mostly good”. So I assumed all was good and went about my business. Back to cheeseburger heaven.

Two years later, same thing. High, but just barely.

Total Cholesterol:

In 2021, it crept a little higher.

Total Cholesterol:

Then in November 2022, it hit 235 mg/DL.

Total Cholesterol:

At that point, I opened up MyChart and compared all of my previous results. The engineer in me didn’t like the data.

My cholesterol was high and trending in the wrong direction.

That’s when the Mack truck hit me

I was 33, my first son had just been born, and something was going on with my health that had been clearly ignored for years.

I asked my doc what to do. He still didn’t seem concerned. I imagine because I looked fit on the outside, was still generally “young”, and was not at major risk for heart disease in the immediate future.

He basically told me to eat more fiber. Not even that much more fiber. “Just eat some oatmeal every now and then and you should be fine.”

So, I did what any sane person would do and bought two giant boxes of Quaker oatmeal from Costco and ate one, sometimes two, packets every damn day.

I also started poking around the web for what causes high cholesterol. Google was unanimous.

Saturated fats were no bueno. But I still didn’t want to believe it. I was holding fast with my random buddy on the internet from 15 years ago.

I kept digging.

Then I found Peter Attia. He was a wealth of knowledge on cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. I read all nine pages of his massive blog post on the matter.

My god, there was so much I didn’t know about cholesterol. What it was. How it worked. What affected it.

Turns out, many factors that determine your cholesterol are out of your control, but there are a few key things that you can control: saturated fats, fiber, exercise, and medicine.

In general, you want to:

  1. Aggressively reduce saturated fat intake

  2. Increase fiber intake

  3. Exercise more. Not necessarily proven to directly reduce cholesterol, but likely a contributing factor.

  4. If all else fails, take a statin

The information wasn’t totally new, but it was presented in a way that made sense. And yet again, one guy on the internet did what the rest of the world wasn’t able to.

Change my mind.

And that’s when the second Mack truck hit me

No wonder my cholesterol was so high.

If cookies were saturated fats, I was the cookie monster. (They actually are saturated fat.) Plus, I wasn’t eating much fiber. I got a little bit from fruits and veggies, but not nearly enough. 

That day I changed my diet forever. I also started doing a lot of zone 2 cardio in addition to some VO2 max work.

In March of 2023, a little more than four months after my previous lipid panel, my total cholesterol came back like this:

It had plummeted 45 points. It was still high to me, but at least I was back in the green for everyone else.

Six months later, it dropped again, but only by about 4 points.

And that brings us to today.

Cholesterol in the green but barely, and it could easily go one way or the other.

Since September 2023, I’ve been dialing it in as much as I can. I avoid saturated fats like the plague. I eat a buttload of fiber. The oatmeal was a good start, but now I’m eating berries, beans, legumes, and whole grains on the reg. Except for a few bad days of being sick, I’ve kept up with my running.

My family loves me, but I’m sure they’re annoyed at how much I talk about cholesterol. Hell, I’m annoyed at myself.

But here’s the problem — I let five years pass by without doing a damn thing. I can’t do anything about that now, but I can make sure I keep doing a better job now and in the future.

I want to live a high-quality life for as long as possible. I want to physically pick up and play with my grandkids someday. Heart disease might not kill me tomorrow, but it will kill me 10, maybe 20 years down the road. It’s a silent killer. That’s the way it works.

That’s why I’m nervous about getting my lipids checked again, which I’m probably going to do sometime soon in March. I want those stupid cholesterol numbers to go down. If they don’t, I know it means I’ll have to start taking medicine.

Health is a funny thing. You can lie to others and yourself about how well you eat and how much you exercise. But those damn numbers on the report aren’t going to lie to you.

And even if you do eat well and exercise often, sometimes genetics still get the best of you.

What a joy.



PS. There’s an insane amount of info on cholesterol that I had no hopes of weaving into this story. Peter Attia’s 9-part blog post is a good resource. So is his book, Outlive (affiliate link, but I promise the book is second to none), and pretty much any podcast he’s ever appeared on (Andrew Huberman and Tim Ferriss are my two favorites). Good luck out there.