As we get older our health concerns get greater and greater, as the body ages and things that haven’t been a problem your whole life suddenly become an issue and it can be very sobering.
That is what happened to me when I was told by my doctor that I had high cholesterol and that I needed to make some changes or be put on medication.
This is my story and the changes I made that got my cholesterol down by 62 points in 6 months.
When I Found Out I had High Cholesterol
When I turned 40 years old my doctor told me since I was “getting older” I should have some blood work done just to make sure everything is ok, just a general check up. So I got it done and didn’t think much of it.
The tests came back and the doctor said my cholesterol was getting a little on the intermediate range at 218, he suggested I make changes to my diet and gave me a pamphlet with what changes to make and which foods to eat and which to avoid.
I was kind of surprised my cholesterol was because I do exercise and my diet hadn’t been really bad. I made the changes to my diet but they didn’t last. I felt like that test was a fluke and slipped back into my old eating habits. Being into fitness I did eat my fair share of eggs and red meat to get that protein and build muscle but I figured it was ok since I worked out regularly.
It wasn’t until a year later when I had my blood work done again that it hit me. This time my cholesterol was 233, almost in the high range (over 240 is high).
My doctor said since the changes to my diet didn’t help it was time to take cholesterol medication.
This is when I fessed up and told him I didn’t really stick with the diet like I should have and told him I didn’t really want to take a medication but that I would take the diet serious this time and we could test again in 6 months. He agreed and gave me that same pamphlet about diet changes as he gave me before. This time I was serious though, apparently, that first test was no fluke. Time to get my butt in gear.
My Family History
I had never heard my parents talk about high cholesterol but I thought I would ask if either of them had it. They didn’t which was a bit of a surprise considering they eat a lot of McDonald’s and other junk that I don’t eat much of.
My dad said his uncles and his dad all had high cholesterol though and they all died in their 50’s. Lucky me somehow it had skipped a generation and I am the one that ended up with it. I was pretty determined to not let me meet the same fate as them though, I prefer longevity.
If you have ever heard someone say “It doesn’t matter what you eat it’s all about how much cholesterol your body produces” don’t listen to them, these people have no idea what they are talking about. While your genes do play a role your diet makes a huge difference and making changes to your diet might be all you need to do in order to lower your cholesterol.
Some of the top cholesterol lowering foods include:
- Walnuts, Almonds and other nuts
- Fish, especially salmon
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Foods to avoid with high cholesterol:
- Baked goods
- Fried foods
- Fast food
- Processed Meats
If you simply choose items from the top list and avoid items from the bottom list you can make a big difference. And again, don’t listen to people who say diet doesn’t make a difference and that it is all genetic. They are simply wrong.
Exercise is another great way to lower cholesterol, particularly doing cardiovascular exercises like walking, running, bike riding or playing sports. Weightlifting may help you look good but isn’t the best choice for lowering cholesterol, you need to really get that heart pumping.
Quit Drinking and Smoking
Smoking and drinking also have adverse effects on your cholesterol and overall health. Try and avoid or cut back on both.
Losing even just a few pounds can help lower your cholesterol levels. With an improved diet and more exercise losing weight should be much easier.
If your cholesterol gets high enough for a longer period of time your doctor will likely recommend you go on a medication to lower and most doctors recommend a statin drug.
The problem with this is statin drugs like Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor are under a lot of scrutinies for their side effects and the side effects are pretty serious including the effect they have on your memory and the fact that they may cause dementia. For guys, they also can affect the blood flow to a certain area of the body that will likely end up in you getting a Viagra superscription as well. Needless to say, this is not the way you want to go.
For me, I even questioned if I would even take a statin and worry about my brain or not take one and worry about my heart. Luckily I don’t have to make that choice.
Changes I Made
If I was going to meet a different fate than my grandfather and his brothers it was pretty clear I was going to have to make some real changes in my diet or I will be joining them sooner rather than later.
At first, my wife was trying to tell me that a vegan diet is a way to go for a cholesterol lowering. That was something I wasn’t really interested though because Vegan food usually tastes like dirt (no offense to any Vegans out there). I decided to do it my own way instead.
My Diet Before Making Changes
My diet before making changes wasn’t so great looking back on it now. I ate a good amount of eggs which are loaded with cholesterol as most people know. I also ate red meat which is another bad one although I wouldn’t say I ate a lot of it. On top of that, I got into the habit of eating donuts in the morning, usually only 1 but sometimes 2. I also ate a good amount of frozen burrito’s, the good ones from Whole Foods and the like not those nasty 99 cent things with mystery meat and beans in it. They still had too much saturated fat in them though, all those frozen burritos, pizzas, burgers and the like are bad, to be honest.
Those are the things on my diet that were worst in terms of cholesterol and the things I would need to change.
The Changes I Made
After looking at my diet it was pretty clear that all of those things were going to have to go.
For breakfast, I was done with the eggs and the donuts. In fact, I was done with both of them any time of day. Although I would still do egg whites time and again.
Instead, I went back to eating cereal for breakfast. And I am not talking about Captain Crunch or any of that garbage. I am talking about cereals that are a good source of fiber and ones with dried fruit (some may not like dried fruit but I need flavor and regular flakes or Grape Nuts bore me to tears). Increased fiber is also one way to help lower cholesterol so I was going to be sure I got plenty of that.
For lunch, I had to ditch the frozen burritos and the like. Instead, I usually went with some kind of a salad, grilled chicken sandwich, tuna fish or some salmon (Costco has some pretty good canned salmon, trust me).
For dinner, I would usually go with chicken or fish as the main meat and veggies or something like brown rice on the side.
I would occasionally have red mean but that was only about once every 2-3 weeks.
For snacks, throughout the day I had things like blueberries, raspberries, nuts, pudding, and pretzels. I know pudding and pretzels aren’t the greatest but I made sure to eat them in moderation. I would also have cereal as a snack during the day or evening.
I wouldn’t say it was the perfect diet but it worked for me and was something I can do and not get sick of and quit, plus quitting wasn’t an option,
Changing My Exercise
I was already pretty fit before finding out I had high cholesterol but I decided it was time to put more emphasis on the cardio/running aspect of my workouts rather than the weight training.
The problem is I have been battling tendinitis in my foot on and off for a couple of years and it made it difficult to really do the cardio I wanted to do. I did increase the amount of cardio/running I was doing but not as much as I would have liked to due to my foot.
Therefore I can’t give my increased exercise much credit in terms of lowering my cholesterol. I would say it made only a small difference, most of the difference was from the diet.
Those were the two changes I made and I would say the diet was definitely the biggest change and accounted for most of my success.
Getting My Results
When it came time to get my results I was nervous. I wondered if I had done enough of if I should have done more or even go vegan.
I was also wondering if those guys who said “diet doesn’t matter when it comes to cholesterol it’s all genetic” might have been right and there was nothing I could do and my cholesterol might be even higher this time than it was before.
I went in and they took my blood and I hoped for the best.
When I got my results I was shocked. My cholesterol had gone from 233 down to 171 in just six months. That was way more than I had expected or hoped for and I was thrilled.
Not going to lie. I went to MacDonald’s after and got myself a bacon egg and cheese biscuit to celebrate (I know it sounds pathetic and it was).
That MacDonald’s was just a one-time thing though. I am staying on the same diet though now that my cholesterol down so I don’t have to worry about it climbing back up again as I am sure it would before long if I went back to my old ways. I will mix in a few cheat meals here and there but I think I am on low this diet to stay. Longevity here I come!
I did it. I lowered my cholesterol and it really wasn’t that hard or any new and fancy technique. I just made the proper changes to my diet and stuck with it. You can do it too. Just make the needed changes and stick with it. With the right amount of self-discipline, I know you can it.
Ryan Douglas – Owner/Operator of TheAthleticBuild.com