I got the results of my first post-heart attack stress test today, and the news is good. Very good.

My total cholesterol went from 230 to . . . (drumroll) . . . 106!
My LDL (bad) cholesterol went from 180 to . . . 58!!
My HDL (good) cholesterol also dropped a little, from 39 to 35, which is not the greatest news but expected, since my overall number is so low.

And even better news than that, my heart itself is in great shape. It has enough blood flow at rest and at peak exercise. It is not damaged or compromised from my heart attack. I wish you could have heard the nurse’s voice on the phone when she said “and there’s not even a scar!” with that little lilt of incredulity, like she didn’t really believe what she was seeing.

I didn’t expect this much progress either. True, I’ve been eating like a model heart patient, exercising 4-5 times a week, learning all I can, and taking all my bitter pills, with or without a spoonful of sugar. And though I expected some results (dammit), I didn’t think it would be this dramatic. I really thought my DNA would have been more determinate.

So when you see articles and TV talk shows and PSAs where the doctors say “heart disease is largely preventable,” that’s really true. While I will always have it, if you know your numbers and commit to the necessary changes, you won’t. Because all this stuff — diet, exercise, and medication and focus and sacrifice and love and prayer — actually works.