I was able to lower my cholesterol by 80 points without the use of statins. Diet and exercise still made a difference even though it is likely hereditary.
When my doctor called to say my cholesterol level was “off the chart” I was shocked. I was 39-years-old, pretty active, and had been thin my whole life. My total cholesterol was 289. The recommended level is below 200. My HDL level, the “good” cholesterol was 60, which was a strong number– but unfortunately my LDL level, the “bad” cholesterol”, was 213. This is almost twice as high as the recommended level. “What have you been eating?!” my friends asked. I wasn’t eating hamburgers everyday, so I didn’t see how I could blame it on diet.
My doctor said it was probably hereditary and wanted to put me on statins. I resisted going on drugs right away. “I’ll give you three months,” he said looking slightly irritated. “But I doubt you’ll be able to make much difference.”
Three months later, I had made a difference. And still, a year later my total cholesterol has gone from 289 to 215. This is almost a 25% decline, without using statins. Also my level of HDLs has gone up from 60 to 70 which also helps to lower my risk of heart disease.
How did I do it? I can’t pin it down to one specific thing because I tried everything, and it was not quick or easy.
Exercise to Increase HDL Cholesterol
There’s no way around this. I primarily ran for 30-minutes about 6 days-a-week. I also tried something new to add variety: Bikram Yoga. High cholesterol was not good news, but for me it was a great motivator to exercise.
Cholesterol Lowering Diet
There is a lot of information on the internet about foods that can lower your cholesterol. I tried several things which working together may have made an impact. Some were more simple than others.
- Coffee: I had been using a French press. Science Daily reported that unfiltered coffee could be the most potent cholesterol-elevating agent out there. I switched to filtered coffee, and better yet, substituted my coffee drinking with green tea sometimes.
- Alcohol: A glass of red wine has been credited with lowering cholesterol. Hey, that’s not so bad.
- Meat: I cut out most meat from my diet. I have started eating more fish, particularly salmon or herring, which has healthy Omega 3. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish a week.
- Flaxmeal: I started adding this to my cereal. It also makes a great breading for fish fillets. Baste the fillet with olive oil, another heart healthy choice, and roll the fish in the flaxmeal. You can also use flax in these waffle and biscuit recipes.
- Oatmeal: Whole grains actually scrape cholesterol out of your system. I replaced my usual cheese grits with oatmeal. Hmmm. That might have made a difference.
- Butter: I stopped using it and switched to a butter spread. There are some on the market which have Omega 3 in them which is good for healthy cholesterol as cited by the Univerisity of Maryland Medical Center. Cooking with Olive Oil is also a good choice.
- Pectin: The old phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” seems to keep stacking up support. Pectin, which is in apples, has been shown to reduce cholesterol.
- Dairy: Cholesterol is only found in animal products, which obviously includes dairy. I tried substituting a Hemp Milk which also included Omega 3’s. Flaxmeal can be used as an egg substitute in baking.
- Nuts: A handful of almonds or walnuts make a nice snack and contributes good fat to your diet.
Managing cholesterol is likely going to be lifelong process. The American Heart Association provides a handy on-line tracker of cholesterol, weight, and other levels to monitor your progress and even share with doctors and family. It’s called Heart360.
Even when dealing with cholesterol that is primarily hereditary, I have shown that diet and exercise can make a difference. This may not always be enough for me, and I may eventually need drugs too, but the longer I can regulate my cholesterol naturally the better. I plan to test my levels every six months. Depending on the results, I may even be at the burger bistro now and then.