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A Cholesterol and Wellness Story

A few months ago my general medical physician informed me that my blood test results from my annual physical revealed a spike in my cholesterol blood profile. While I’ve always had a less than ideal cholesterol profile, due to my genetics, the numbers had always stayed in the “debatably” acceptable ranges. Here are the ugly details from my blood test in August:

Cholesterol (MMOL/L)
August, 2013 Blood Test Results
Target Values
depends on your cardiovascular risk factors
depends on your cardiovascular risk factors

August, 2013 Blood Test Results Target Values
Cholesterol (MMOL/L) 6.62 1.29
LDL (MMOL/L) 5.17 depends on your cardiovascular risk factors
CHOL:HDL RATIO 6.19 depends on your cardiovascular risk factors

I say “debatably” because the science and consensus on the role cholesterol plays in our cardiovascular health is, in fact, debatable. On one hand, those who suffer from heart attacks and strokes tend to have elevated cholesterol levels. On the other hand, it is theorized that finding high levels of cholesterol in heart attack and stroke patients is simply a correlation and not a causative factor. Nevertheless, medicines known as ‘statins’ are used to lower your cholesterol levels and, in turn, your risk of heart attack and stroke. It remains unclear whether the statins directly reduce your risk or whether the improved cholesterol profile is what lowers your risk. And so the debate continues. In fact, just recently, the United States amended its recommendations for statin prescription. Rather than basing the statin prescription on cholesterol numbers and continually modifying the dosage of medicine, doctors are now recommended to simply prescribe a statin to those at risk and ignore the continued measurement of the cholesterol numbers. The rationale for this change is that experts don’t really know the ideal cholesterol numbers; they simply know what is too high or who has a general profile for being at risk of stroke and heart disease (i.e. Diabetes, Smoking, High Blood Pressure).

Inflammation might be the real concern in cardiovascular health. Stress and an inflammatory diet may be the real culprit. Jury is still out on this, however. I’m becoming more of a believer in it as I will explain further down in the blog.

Further, not accepted yet by mainstream medicine is the fact that there is a better predictor of cardiovascular disease than the ones we use today. Apolipoprotein A1 (apo-A1) and Apolipoprotein B (apo-B) are lipoproteins that are part of the HDLs and LDLs. They, too, can be measured with blood tests and provide a statistically better predictor of cardiovascular disease risk than our standard cholesterol measuring method. For this reason, my Naturopath recommended I have these numbers measured as well. Note, I had to ask my family physician to requisition these tests from the laboratory. In turn, I had to pay the lab a fee for running these tests, as they are not covered by OHIP. Apo-A1 is anti-atherogenic; Apo-B is pro-atherogenic. Thus, you want lots of Apo-A1 and little of Apo-B. Getting both numbers and generating the Apo-B:Apo-A1 ratio gives you your predictor. The lower the number the better.

My family physician asked me to get back to my usual routine of healthy eating and exercise and to re-take my blood three months later to see if I can control my cholesterol numbers, and, in turn, my cardiovascular disease risk. Well, three months have passed, my blood was taken, and the results are in:

August, 2013 November, 2013 % Change
Cholesterol 6.62 5.19 22%
HDL 1.07 1.25 17%
LDL 5.17 3.51 32%
CHOL:HDL RATIO 6.19 4.15 33%
Apo-A1 – 1.33 –
Apo-B – 1 –
Apo-B:Apo-A1 Ratio – 0.75 –

‘They’ say that you can affect your cholesterol numbers by about 20% via diet and exercise. Well, I think I did better than that! My total cholesterol dropped by 22% – about as much as ‘they’say is possible. But, my ratio changed by 33%. My HDLs went up 17% and my LDLs went down a whopping 32%. I think I can do better too. Here’s how I did it, and ways to do it even better:


I returned to a cardiovascular healthy diet as dietitians would suggest. This included no-fat dairy products like yogurt and skim milk. I cut out almost all cheese, except for the occasional soft cheeses like goat-cheese and feta. More recently, on the advice of a holistic nutritionist (see my thank you below), I cut out almost all dairy altogether. No more dairy milk, yogurt, and cheese. (Although, I’ve cheated with goat-cheese on occasion). The holistic nutritional rationale to cut out all dairy is based on the information that explains that dairy is inflammatory. And, inflammatory eating might be a significant factor in cardiovascular health. As I said above, the jury is still out on this theory. However, since dropping dairy from my life, my cardiovascular numbers improved, as did my energy and my immune system.

In place of dairy, I’m making sure I get my calcium from other calcium rich sources like nuts, leafy greens, and non-dairy milks: coconut and almond.

Nuts and seeds have become my go-to snack. I’ve replaced all chocolate sweets with healthier 72% dark chocolate.
My heart-healthy diet includes a reduction of saturated fats and cholesterol (limiting my steak, eggs, bacon, for example) and increasing my fruits, veggies, and fibre sources. For instance, my breakfast is often a smoothie made from almond milk, coconut yogurt, frozen fruit, ground flax, and hemp seeds.

I’ve also begun starting my day with a glass of water with lemon to start my digestive enzymes. Thanks to my holistic nutritionist for this daily routine.


As many of you know, exercise is a big part of my life. I’ve completed a handful of triathlons with sufficient running, swimming, and cycling exercise training. But, when my son Nathan entered my life sleep and exercise left. The result was my devastating blood test (it wasn’t that devastating – more a “kick-in-the-pants”). I returned to my exercise regime. I returned to swimming twice a week and running or cycling once a week. I plan to do more and incorporate more strength training. This is where I think I can improve my HDL numbers even further, and, in turn, my CHOL:HDL Ratio.


I’m also supplementing my diet with the following things:

1.Omega-3 Fish Oils (approx. 2000mg/day) – to improve blood fat profile
2.Multivitamin – to ensure I’m getting all my vitamins and antioxidants
3.Probiotics – to ensure an optimally functioning digestive system for proper nutrient absorption and immune support
4.Vitamin D – because it’s winter and I don’t see the sun nearly as often as I’d like
5.Vitamin C – for immune support
6.Deep Immune – contains Astragalus and other immune boosting herbs


1.Heart healthy eating is really, really important for me.
2.Anti-inflammatory eating makes me feel better.
3.Exercise is enjoyable and healthy.
4.Although I’m a low-risk cardiovascular health risk individual, it is important to know my numbers and continue to strive to improve them in order to feel well, be well, and hopefully live a long, healthy life with my loved ones.
5.Numbers can be deceiving. Learning about the Apo-B:Apo-A1 ratio has been eye-opening. Just because mainstream medicine relies on a certain test doesn’t mean that test is the best method.
6.Holistic nutritional counselling has benefits.
7.Advice from a Naturopathic Doctor has benefits.
8.Dietary changes and exercise should have benefits beyond cardiovascular health risk avoidance. Sleep quality, energy, immune systems should all improve as well (and, with a 2-year-old kid in daycare, I can use all the immune support I can get).

Deserving thanks goes to Dr. Suzanna Ivanovics for her naturopathic counselling. And, thanks also goes to Nathane Jackson for his holistic nutritional (and exercise) counselling.

Dr. Suzanna Ivanovics can be found right here at Satori Health & Wellness.

Nathane Jackson can be found at

And, thanks to my wife Andrea for her support of my nutritional changes!

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