On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

I’m an Athlete -- Why Is My Cholesterol So High?

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am very concerned: My recent wellness check revealed that my total cholesterol was 242. I’m a 37-year-old, 150-pound white male. My triglyceride level is 71, HDL is 88, LDL is 110 and my fasting glucose is 90. There is no history of heart disease in my family. I am an avid athlete, landscaper and marathon runner, and am even sponsored by a shoe company, having had some success in races. I have been doing daily runs at an intense level for over a decade.

Food-wise, I eat a balanced diet, and rarely eat meat and animal products. I’d like to know what you think is going on, and get your suggestions for lowering my numbers. -- J.F., Boston

DEAR J.F.: You describe great habits, and you eat well. I can’t offer medical advice, but if these numbers do not jibe with previous data, you can always ask your doctor for a retest. Numbers can vary from test to test, and from lab to lab.

Your HDL is in great shape, and your triglyceride number is also in the low-risk range. There are some doctors, however, who care only about your LDL value. It’s important to discuss this with your physician. Other tests, such as C-reactive protein (for heart disease risk) and hemoglobin A-1C (for blood sugar) can provide more information, if needed. In addition, there are many websites providing information about blood cholesterol. Check out Medline from the U.S. National Library of Medicine (medlineplus.gov, search “cholesterol”).

Regarding your exercise habits, it is not always in our best interests to push “intense” on a daily basis. Have you ever considered working with a trainer? Doing the same intense workout every day can overwork the body, and landscaping work demands that your joints remain in good shape. There might be some benefit to alternating your workouts, such as running every other day and doing complementary exercises, such as yoga, tai chi or resistance training, on the alternate days.

An unfortunate fact of life is that the body becomes less forgiving as we transition to midlife. Our habits determine when midlife begins and how long it lasts. It is likely that you have already gotten subtle reminders that youthful flexibility doesn’t last forever, even for one who maintains an active lifestyle. Even those who stay active need to refine their workouts as the years go by. This is not a bad thing, and by doing so, you can remain injury-free and at the top of your game. Let me know how things turn out.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.