What should I do now I know I have high cholesterol?
Several years ago I was diagnosed with high cholesterol; I was young and foolhardy and like most 20 year olds I simply believed that I was unbreakable and this really wasn’t a problem I should think about; twenty years on, and still with high cholesterol I began to wish I had the foresight to tackle a problem earlier, and get into a healthy way of life that would have become simple habit by now.
They say hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I cannot change what I did back in the 80s; however, I can change my habits and work hard to reduce my cholesterol levels and move a huge step closer to becoming heart healthy. While high cholesterol isn’t the only thing that impacts my heart, most of the solutions will not only reduce my cholesterol levels, but will also have an impact on all the other dangerous elements of not being heart healthy.
I am not a lover of medication and in fact the majority of statins actually cause severe side effects for me, so the option of medication is a last resort for me. There are many ways that I can actually reduce my cholesterol levels without taking medication though. Here are some things to ask yourself:
Will charting my progress reduce my cholesterol level?
This isn’t proven, and simply is an observation of mine, but I find that if I chart my success while following the other measures, I feel a lot better about myself, reduce my stress and end up working harder to further reduce my cholesterol levels. So finding out your cholesterol levels on a quarterly basis is important – it’s a great indicator to show whether or not you are being successful but more importantly for me it’s a catalyst that makes me re-double my efforts – when I see my levels drop I get excited and re-invigorated!
The aim is to get to lower that 130 mg/dL for LDL cholesterol, and above 40 mg/dl for HDL cholesterol. I won’t define LDL cholesterol or HDL cholesterol here – you can Google it or click on the links I've provided – suffice to say that LDL are bad, and HDL are good!
Will losing weight reduce my cholesterol level?
Like many in the US and around the world I am beginning to get a middle-age spread, or a beer gut. While this is generally not good for many reasons, research suggests that packing a few pounds on disrupts the metabolism of dietary fat, and even if you reduce intake of fat, you may not necessarily see a huge drop in LDL cholesterol levels.
Thus, part of the process of reducing these levels must include a plan to shed a few pounds. Eating healthier is going to assist in this, and obviously exercise will do more, but the key is not to drop 20lbs in 2 weeks, but to aim for a loss of 1lb or less a week; if it is naturally lost based on a change in lifestyle that you will keep up, then the weight loss will be permanent. It’s no good losing the weight for a month or two and then putting it back on when your cholesterol is down to safe levels. The weight loss has to be permanent!
Will exercise reduce my cholesterol level?
Exercise is one of the best ways of reducing LDL cholesterol and with the more intense workouts you can actually raise the HDL cholesterol too! However, let’s face it, I’m 43 and the last thing I want to have to do is to go to a gym, or buy a multi-gym for home and work out 2 hours a day – I simply have no interest in being ultra fit – it’s not enjoyable to me, and I’m not out to impress the girls with my wonderful physique. So what can a fatty like me do?
Walk – simply going for a 20-30 minute walk every day can have a huge impact on my cholesterol levels. Studies suggest that you can lose between 5% and 8% LDL cholesterol simply by walking every day. Take the dog out, take the grand kids out – whatever it takes!
Wii / Kinect / Move – believe it or not you can now play video games while exercising. I’m a video games fanatic, so to be able to have some fun while exercising really makes it easier. I’ve played Golf, table tennis, soccer, fought battles with a sword etc – and while enjoying it I’ve helped reduce my cholesterol – strangely I spend more time playing these video games than I do walking. I note that I have use games like Wii Fit or Wii Active and while these do work well I found that I soon lost interest.
Spousal fun – OK without getting to crude here, a simple spousal workout can do wonders for your cholesterol levels, it also reduces tension and stress and really makes a difference in your life.
Will reducing bad fats and eating good fats reduce my cholesterol level?
I know this seems like an oxy-moron, but there are actually some good fats out there that should be part of a healthy diet. Most agree that the reduction of fats in food will lower cholesterol, but certain fats such as peanut oil, avocados fats, olive oils and canola oils contain monounsaturated fats. Studies are beginning to show that these fats lower LDL and often raise HDL – also they reduce triglycerides adding further to heart health.
You want to aim to reduce saturated fats - these tend to be in products like meat, butter, full fat milk and cheese – these saturated fats are your worst enemy. I’m not saying you should cut out these foods, but you can reduce the fat intake – buy very lean meat, buy low fat foods, milk etc – reduce the overall intake of these food. (Note: it’s also important that when reducing these fats that you don’t end up increasing sodium intake).
Introduce omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Most fish contain these acids and they are very beneficial and reduce your cholesterol levels. Try to replace one red meat meal a week with a fish dish. Another tip is to cut off the skin of poultry!
Do I really have to eat fiber to reduce my cholesterol level?
Yes, Yes and Yes! Fiber is one of the most beneficial natural foods there is; eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, and then replacing white bread with whole bread is a must. Legumes are also fantastic foods that contain a lot of fiber – if you can, replace one meat a week with a legume – try this: Two pieces of whole wheat toast coated with a low fat spread; a tin of baked beans; a fried egg – hang on that’s not healthy is it – aha, I removed the yolk!
Put the beans on the toast and place the fried egg on top – note you can actually fry the egg in hot water! It is a very healthy meal and surprisingly filling!
Will vitamins help me reduce my cholesterol?
It’s hard to say whether multi-vitamins have a huge effect on cholesterol, but they certainly have an impact on heart health. Multi-vitamins are a great supplement to a diet and assist in lowering risks associated with strokes and heart attacks.
Experts advise you to look for multi-vitamins that contain folic acid, B6 and B12
Will reduced stress levels reduce my cholesterol?
This is one of the most overlooked factors when working to reduce cholesterol, and perhaps this is why I chart my cholesterol levels as that alone helps me reduce stress! Stress puts a lot of additional work on the heart thanks to elevated heart rates, higher blood pressure and reduced blood flow.
Reducing stress is therefore important to helping heart health. But how does this help my cholesterol levels? The ways to reduce stress involve walking away from stressful situations, going for short walks, stretching, exercising etc – each of these have an impact on cholesterol levels. Removing stress levels goes hand in hand with all the points above! One of my best methods of reducing stress is to get on Wii Sport and beat the heck out of another boxer!
To reduce cholesterol is a lifelong fight that requires a commitment; it’s a commitment to work hard, to change your life style and to give up some things you currently enjoy. But more than that it’s a commitment to help your heart, improve your health and ultimately live longer!
So what is more important? The loaded baked potato or seeing your grandchildren graduate high school? I know I’d choose the grand children every time!
Tiffany Delite from Wichita, KS on July 08, 2019:
I have high cholesterol, too, and I decided to change my lifestyle instead of taking the statin medications. It has definitely been an interesting journey full of ups, downs, successes, and failures! I think the changes are so incredibly worth it!
Judith Hayes from Maine and Florida on April 19, 2019:
You made some very good points in this article.
Gunny Cracker from Elkhorn, WI on December 31, 2015:
Thorough, easy to read and helpful article. Now the hard-part, application to my daily diet & routine.
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on July 26, 2014:
I find this to be a very complete explanation of the most important things one needs to understand. I personally have my cholesterol under control. And I think the one thing that has helped the most is that I always look at product labels. I always make sure that whatever I eat has more unsaturated fat and less saturated fat. If saturated fat makes up most of the product, I don't use it. I noticed that you said to reduce saturated fats. I believe that's one of the most important things because that's working for me.
Rajesh Falaik on December 13, 2013:
Thanks a lot for very informative info.
carol stanley from Arizona on August 22, 2012:
You did a most complete job on talking about cholesterol. Your suggestions seem valid. Many thin people who eat well still are plagued with this condition. But why not do all we can. Thanks for sharing this.
mousumi mishra on March 25, 2011:
i too wanted to join so that i could also write on some topics but could not due to technical problems on this site.i find the topics i read very knowledgeable n intresting.
Fay Paxton on March 04, 2011:
Thanks for this very informative hub. bookmarked