Heart Health in Endurance Athletes: Bloodwork

When my doctor wrote out my pathology request, she told me that “if everything was fine, I wouldn’t hear from her.” Armed with that somewhat-comforting knowledge, I got myself down to the pathology lab and parted with three vials of blood. Around 48 hours later, I got a text asking me to book a follow-up appointment! While I wasn’t exactly surprised, it still came as a bit of a shock.

Heart Health in Endurance Athletes: Part 1
Heart Health in Endurance Athletes: What’s up, Doc?

Apart from my heart health, another reason I wanted a full rack of blood tests was to get a picture of my overall health. I don’t talk about it often, but I’ve been plant based in my diet for around two years. That’s long enough to develop any deficiencies or issues related to a change in diet. I eat a “healthy” plant based diet, I cook almost all of my own meals from scratch, don’t eat any fake meat substitutes, and consume very little “vegan junk” food. Meeting with the Doc, we went over my test results…

So, what was I deficient in? Actually, nothing. Not a single thing. Many of my results even trended towards the upper end of normal ranges. Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, folate, creatinine. All well within normal limits. Not even close to being low. For those of you who still think that soy-based products kill testosterone levels, I eat tofu like it’s going out of fashion, and my testosterone results were close to top end normal for my age.

Iron? Well, that was the surprise. I thought I would be low (no red meat, innit) but it turns out my iron levels (ferratin and saturation) were actually high. A little too high in fact. My levels were a shade above the normal range, so I’ve got another round iron level tests in a month. Elevated iron levels may point to hemochromatosis (a condition where extra iron builds up in the bloodstream, sometimes to harmful levels). The good news is if they’re still high, it’s easily treatable.

Now, the big one…

Cholesterol. My cholesterol levels were something I was concerned about. Not because I eat a lot of cholesterol heavy foods, but because I have a family history of high cholesterol. My levels did come back high. Certainly higher than my doctor would expect for somebody of my age, diet, general health, and activity levels. Here’s a run-down:

Cholesterol: 5.4 (over 4.0 is high)
Triglycerides: 0.8 (fine)
HDL / good cholesterol: 1.2
(in range, but lower than expected)
LDL / bad cholesterol: 3.8
(above 2.0 is high)

My doctor didn’t seem overly concerned, it’s early days and if they do keep going up I can be put on medication (Statins) although I’d like to avoid that. She did give me a list of diet changes that are proven to lower cholesterol levels. It’s called the Portfolio Diet. The problem is, the sheet looked pretty much like my current diet!

There are a couple of changes I can make such as some additional Plant Sterols. In the meantime, I’m going to consult Dr Google (uh oh) and make a couple of adjustments to my diet to see if that makes any difference.

Next up, I’ve got some in-depth heart scans booked!

11 Comments Add yours

  1. niall says:

    From my total lack of medical experience cholesterol seems to be almost completely genetic. I’ve seen it both ways in friends and family.

    If you can avoid statins do, they do have side effects. I’m on a high dose and they affect my digestive system, sometimes quite significantly. They can also affect sleep with disturbing and vivid dreams being common. My Dad gets that one, thankfully I don’t!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the info. I’m hoping to avoid Statins for as long as I can, but hey maybe I could benefit from some vivid dreams! 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I do a similar amount of km’s as you in a year and got very similar cholesterol scores on my last set of tests. Wonder if there is a link to significant exercise? Cholesterol is a kind of fat (fuel) after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I do a similar amount of km’s as you in a year and got very similar cholesterol scores on my last set of tests. Wonder if there is a link to doing significant amounts of exercise? Cholesterol is a kind of fat (fuel) after all.


  4. Well done on getting the tests done!! As you know, it has saved my life ❣️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. annecreates says:

    You reminded me that I need to get a physical. Thanks to Covid, it’s been a while! I’ve been vegan for 5 years. Last time my levels were checked, my iron was super high and my hemoglobin was really high for a woman. And my B12 was so high, I stopped supplementing. Sometimes elevated cholesterol is really all about genetics. Mine dropped 20 points after transitioning from vegetarian to vegan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is my first ever cholesterol test so I’m not sure how my levels have changed over the years. Hopefully I can bring them down a little.

      Liked by 1 person

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