Feb 02

I’ve tried to give blood regularly all of my adult life. I’m a little embarrassed to say it, but up until a few years ago, giving blood was the only time I ever checked my cholesterol. A typical man! Anyway, I would get a report back every time I gave blood and every year it went higher and higher! By the time I was almost 40, my cholesterol level almost 270! For a healthy man, doctors want that level to be at or below 200.

That last report was a wake up call for me. I decided that I may die some other way, but it would not be because of what I ate. I did a lot of research and a lot of talking with my doctor. I made several lifestyle changes and after 1 year, my cholesterol was down in the 170’s! That’s almost a 100 point difference. This brief article is about how I made it happen.

My doctors said losing weight by getting on a low fat diet would help to lower my cholesterol. I decided to go with the Weight Watchers Core Plan, which is basically a low fat, high fiber diet. The diet allows you to eat all you want of certain foods, mostly non-processed stuff and lean meats. It’s a great diet that is easy to follow. I ate all of the time and lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks. I followed the diet very strictly for six months. I also exercised three or four times a week. After about six months I had my cholesterol checked and my score was 209! I was pumped.

After I got over the excitement, I realized that I had to do better. 209 was great but it still was over 200. My doctor said if I didn’t keep it down I would have to go on medicine to lower my cholesterol. I really didn’t want to do that if I could help it. I couldn’t follow the diet any better because I was already following it to a T.

I knew in my gut that there had to be other ways to get my cholesterol down. I was right! I did lots of research and I found lots of helpful information. I tried to decide what I could and couldn’t do. I put what I learned into practice and six months later my cholesterol was down into the 170 range! Here is what I learned:

1) Stay away from trans fat! No ifs, ands or but! Trans fat has been proven to lower good cholesterol and raise bad cholesterol. If it has “Partially Hydrogenated” anything in it… run away!

2) Keep your saturated fat to a minimum. Saturated fat raise bad cholesterol levels in most people. I try to keep my intake around a few grams a day.

3) Add good fats to your diet. POLY and MONO fats are helpful with cholesterol levels. You can add them to your diet with nuts and olives. I eat a small handful of almonds about 3 times a week. I eat 5 or 6 olives a few times a week.

4) Limit your total fat intake. I try to eat 20 to 40 grams a day. None of us should be overweight. Excess fat or too many carbs will lead to that. Ask your doctor about what is right for you.

5) Add Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. These help your body get rid of excess bad cholesterol. You can do it by eating wild-caught deep water fish, or by taking a fish oil capsule. I take one fish oil capsule a day about 5 times a week. I use enteric coated capsules so I don’t have mackerel breath.

6) If alcohol is not a problem for you, drink a glass of wine once or twice a week. It’s not completely understood why, but this also helps cholesterol levels. My theory is that when the liver breaks down the alcohol, it also breaks down the bad cholesterol. It may be that it’s a great stress reliever. No one knows exactly for sure yet. I must caution though that tests have been coming in that say drinking more than 1 glass a day is harmful to your health. Like Granny always said, “Everything in moderation.”

7) Eat garlic! Garlic has been proven to lower cholesterol. I take a natural garlic supplement about 5 times a week. My wife and I love to add a fresh clove of garlic to just about everything we cook.

8) Drink 8 ounces of 100% grape juice or orange juice several times a week. Both have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Be careful not to drink more than eight ounces or the extra carbs may push up your triglyceride levels. Also, juice is not the best thing for kids always because of the high sugar levels.

9) For breakfast at least 5 times a week eat oatmeal or any high fiber, low sugar cereal. I alternate between oatmeal and Fiber One. Fiber One has an outrageous amount of fiber and no sugar. My doctor says it’s basically hay! I’d have to agree but I really do like it. Anyway, high fiber has been shown to help cholesterol levels. Another advantage is clock-like regularity!

10) TREAT YOURSELF every few days. Once you get your cholesterol levels where they need to be, it’s ok to treat yourself here and there. Have a bowl of ice cream. Have a piece of cake. Sometimes people need to be reminded that enjoying life is an important aspect of living. So go and treat yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

By putting these ten principles to work in my life, I have kept my cholesterol levels in the 170’s for over a year. These days, I look forward to getting my levels checked every 6 months. I hope that what I have learned will help you.

This is not to be taken as professional medical advice but the opinions of a lay person. Please consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise regiment.

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