How Clean Are Your Arteries?

Patient Expert

Perhaps like some of you, my cholesterol was fine and dandy until recently, when my "bad" cholesterol (LDL) started to creep up and then skyrocketed as my body entered full-tilt menopause.  I wondered why.  I know that SOMETHING will eventually kill me but I really dislike the idea of a heart attack or stroke, and keeping bad cholesterol down (and "good" cholesterol, or HDL, up) has gotten harder and harder as I make my way through this journey called menopause.

Now a study in this month's  Journal of American College of Cardiology explains it, sort of.  Doctors and researchers have long known that women going through menopause have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. They assumed (and it turns out they were right) that cholesterol was the culprit. Cholesterol is an important factor in your health but too much of it starts to clog your arteries. Cleaning them out is the hardest cleaning job of your life, harder than cleaning the gunk around the edges of your stove, harder than cleaning under the rim of the toilet or under the bed all the way to the middle. You  get the point.

But it is WAY more important than any of those cleaning jobs.

The study has followed more than 3,000 American women since 1996 and is about all kinds of health factors, but the most recent research looked at our risks for heart attacks. High LDL cholesterol is a major culprit, and a silent one. We don't even know that it's building up in our arteries-unlike the belly fat is beginning to  accumulate-which we are PAINFULLY aware of (at least I am).

Here's a little primer on cholesterol-- in case you don't know about the good kind and the bad kind and the relationship between them.  There are two kinds of cholesterol:  LDL, which you want to keep below 100, and HDL, which you want to keep above 60 because it protects your heart. If you add those two together, you get a total cholesterol number.  Let's take my numbers:  My  HDL is 84 and my LDL is 64. So I'm in pretty good shape, though I am on a cholesterol-lowering drug to keep it that way.   My total cholesterol is 148. (I hate to tell you what it was before I started taking the drugs. My LDL, which is supposed to be under 100, was 187).

I keep track of the number because, like under the rim of my toilet-which I am obsessed with keeping clean-I want to keep my arteries clean too. I wish there was a scrub brush I could use on my arteries.  Well, there is one, kind of. Oatmeal is supposed to help actually clean your arteries.  I eat a bowl of it every day. Each morning I put one cup of water in a glass bowl, put in 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats, put it in the microwave at 70% power for 3 ½ minutes and eat it as I'm getting ready for work.   It's yummy. (Thanks to my friend Darlene for that little recipe.)  I put brown sugar and milk on mine because I have a terrible sweet tooth.

Other "cleansers" include exercise and consuming more dietary fiber. And by cutting down on red meat, you won't be consuming as much cholesterol, so you won't have as much to clean out.

The study may seem obvious but it narrowed down the culprits of cardiovascular disease in menopausal women to high LDL levels.  We all know what we can do to keep our total cholesterol in check.   If you need some good ideas, visit these two sites: and

Now, if I could just get oatmeal to work on the toilet bowl.