By Ande Dagan
Age is a relative number. Ten years ago I couldn’t comprehend life past the age of 30. And in ten years from now, I’ll probably look back at 34 as an age of being young and carefree. I don’t necessarily feel old, but when I found out that I had high cholesterol, I suddenly felt like complaining about today’s pop music and screaming at kids to get off my lawn.
First off, let’s break down the sciencey stuff - what exactly is cholesterol? According to the American Heart Association, cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipids (fats) in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. A high level of cholesterol in the blood — hypercholesterolemia — is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack.
As I imagined the sticky, gooey cholesterol creeping through and building small forts in my arteries, I began to feel a sense of betrayal from my body. I grew up in sunny Southern California and have spent the last thirteen years or so abstaining from meat. I try to eat as many whole foods (including things that would be classified as “weird hippie foods” - like nutritional yeast and seaweed salad) as much as possible and I usually avoid processed foods - save for the occasional cookie. I don’t smoke and I exercise regularly. Excuse me high cholesterol, I think you have the wrong body.
There are two main factors that determine cholesterol levels in the blood - lifestyle and genetics. Damn you, Midwestern/Eastern European heritage (shakes fist at sky, goes into kitchen to look for hummus and celery snack). High cholesterol runs in my family - I was predisposed - so now what?
I sought out the advice of Dr. Weil, a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, an approach to health care that encompasses body, mind, and spirit.