All of the above are cholesterol lowering foods – and I have nothing against any of them.
Some of my best breakfasts include oatmeal, lightly salted with pools of butter melting into the folds of the steaming mound. I also like sardines – with my favorite olive bread slathered with oil. I love walnuts. Baked in Brownies made from scratch with real butter and lots of sugar. I have long been willing to cut back on the fat in the milk I put in my coffee -- from whole to 2 percent.
Oh, how I delude myself.
On my last visit to my doctor, my LDL cholesterol (aka the bad kind) was too high, I resolved to try to lower it with diet and exercise, and then retest my blood. I don’t have a problem with blood pressure or weight, but high bad cholesterol can put me at risk for heart attacks or stroke.
I have a long six months ahead: morning oatmeal with blueberries, but no butter. Sardines on Wasa crackers. Plain walnuts. No bread from the bakery. No Hersey bars with almonds from the dollar store. I tossed out the flax seed in the cupboard – it was more than a year old and probably rancid, and I am buying more. I switched to skim milk. More salmon, (which I love) and sardines. More broccoli unadorned with sauce or margarine. More carrots and bananas. More lentils, chick peas, black beans and leafy greens.
How will I maintain this diet? Try a little reverse visualization—negative as opposed to positive picturing. This is how I imagine food in the blood stream: I eat something full of saturated fat and sugar. The goop goes right to the blood. It’s yucky stuff, thick and creamy as warm caramel, sticky as deflated cotton candy. It adheres to the vessel walls, starts to dry up but stays gluey just long enough to attract more goo and other bad stuff floating around in the stream. Pretty soon the vessel walls are as gross and tacky as the floor of a fraternity after homecoming. The gunk hardens like taffy, like shellac, coat after coat of yellowed hard marshmallow stuff all along a formerly sinuous circulation system. That’s arterial plaque or atherosclerosis, and that’s what will happen if I don’t lower my LDL. Maybe it’s already happening.
How can I get to it – to clean the mess out? It’s all inside my body like the pipes inside the walls of our house. Where’s Ms. Frizzle and her Magic School Bus, full of janitors instead of kids, when I need her?
Instead I’ll try Draino for arteries: Fiber and Fish oil. Flax seed and fruits. Kale and Swiss chard. Oranges. Here’s how it works: Pour in fiber. Wait. Drink a lot of water and soon, like magic – dissolving and scouring away at the vessel walls, flushing away any coagulating clogs of LDL cholesterol.
Add a little Omega 3 fatty acids to soften and dissolve the lumps. Presto, chango; everything is flowing again. My LDL numbers sink; my HDL rise.
Except this fantasy may be poppycock. If there is plaque in the arteries, it’s likely to stay that way unless really major life style changes are made. But there’s even hope for that. The works of Dr. Dean Ornish suggest that prevention is realistic and reversal is possible. For less fantasy and more science Web MD http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/default.htm and Mayo Clinic health information http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-cholesterol/DS00178 have lots of information on cholesterol and heart health. Also this month’s Prevention magazine has a section titled “Make Yourself Heart-Attack Proof.”