Heart diseaseHeart disease

After an exhausting day walking all over Governors Island and lower Manhattan, I wanted something satisfying and easy that didn’t involve the oven. I decided it was time for a second round of garlic soup with mussels, so I stopped at Murray’s for gruyère (and some burrata for an appetizer), and then I went next door to the fish market for mussels. (Incidentally, I asked the cashier in the fish market if the smell ever bothered her, and she told me that she has no sense of smell. What do you say to that? It was awkward.)

After all my shopping, I was ready for a fat hunk of burrata with salt on a thin slice of ciabatta. Before I dug in, however, I opened a letter from my doctor to read this great news:

I am writing to report the results of your recent test. Your total cholesterol was 201 (normal = under 200) and the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol was 128 (normal = under 100). While the total cholesterol is acceptable, the LDL levels suggest a future risk for heart disease and need to be lowered through diet and exercise. I suggest you review cholesterol websites for detailed information. Since you are young, there is plenty of time to correct the problem and we should recheck in one year.

Could this news be any worse? I suppose it could, but cholesterol is not something I’ve ever thought seriously about, since I eat pretty healthily and walk miles every day. I don’t eat junk food, although I do eat a fair amount of butter, cheese, and cream. When I had the blood test (which caused me to faint), I had just eaten a bagel with cream cheese, as I have every morning for the past fifteen years. Does anyone know if what you eat right before a blood test will affect your overall cholesterol? What am I supposed to do now? If anyone has experience or wisdom in this area, I’d love to read it. In the meantime, I’ll be googling “cholesterol” and trying to get more exercise.


I do believe I have been told that what you ate recently does affect the test.

It sounds as if it could. From this website:

You should fast overnight before you have this test. This means you should not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your test. Eating food within 9 to 12 hours before the test will not affect the HDL or total cholesterol test results, but it may affect the test results for triglycerides and LDL. If you need to take medicines, you may take them with a small amount of water on the morning of your test.

I, too, have always been told to fast, including not to even drink any coffee in the morning because coffee causes a spike in insulin, from midnight on preceding a blood test when they are going to be looking at cholesterol levels. I’m really surprised your doctor didn’t say anything to you about that, although I wonder how many points difference it would make. Can you have the test re-done? I know you don’t want to have your blood taken again, but still, it would be good to have the correct data.

The consensus seems to be that my coffee-and-bagel breakfast affected the test negatively. You couldn’t pay me enough to have my blood taken again after having “dropped like a leaf” last time. I just won’t worry too much about it until next year—it’s not like I’m eating junk food or sitting around or gaining any weight. In fact, I’ve lost weight since moving here! They can take their cholesterol reading and shove it!

Eh, cholesterol is a mysterious thing. I got mine tested last year and it was surpringly high—191. I’m 23, I work out, I don’t eat junk food and at least part of my family (mom) has great cholesterol, despite eating butter, cheese, etc.

My dad’s cholesterol is pretty high, though, so I guess I got stuck in between.

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