A few years ago, I came to a crossroad that created an opportunity to enjoy a healthier lifestyle along with a new awareness about cholesterol. I had been indulging in some unhealthy habits like eating fast foods, avoiding exercise and spending time in smoke filled atmospheres. Luckily, the business I worked for moved to another town and so I found myself looking for a new job. In order to get a taxi license, it was required to get a physical examination. I had not been to a doctor in years and this visit turned out to be very informative. The results showed that I was overweight, had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There was also a history of diabetes in my family so I decided to make some changes.
First of all, I did not have the slightest idea what the significance of cholesterol was. It turns out that cholesterol is an organic chemical produced naturally in the body as well as part of foods that are eaten. Cholesterol is essential in creating the permeable membranes in your cells as well as creating the acidic bile that aids in digestion and absorbing of vitamins. Cholesterol is a necessary component in the human body, but high levels may lead to heart disease and hardening of the arteries.
To confuse matters more, there is good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL).
The good kind helps the intestines to absorb vitamins A, E, K, and especially D which is vital in promoting healthy bones. The bad kind clogs up your heart and arteries, creating the dangers of heart attacks and strokes. It can accumulate to create gallstones and other health problems. The doctor told me that I would need to start taking medication unless I was able to change my unhealthy habits so this is what I did.
I changed my diet.
The goal is to minimize “bad’ cholesterol by avoiding red meats, butter, cheese, egg yolks, processed foods, and hydrogenated oils. At the same time, I cut back on starches from carbohydrates like white rice, potatoes, and bread. I began to use olive oil and avoided hydrogenated oils that are solid at room temperature. I cut back on hamburger and pork and began eating white meats of poultry and fish. More fiber was added to my diet like broccoli, carrots, and whole grain bread and pasta.
Here’s a link to a previous article I wrote about the “Cave Man Diet”.
I lost weight and started to exercise.
The diet helped me feel better almost right away and soon I had more energy to direct towards exercise. Walking and swimming for at least half an hour a day helped to accelerate my health benefits. Soon the pounds melted away, my blood pressure went down, and I started sleeping better. Going to the gym and using a treadmill helped, but the best results came from getting to the park . Enjoying the great outdoors seemed to lower my level of stress.
I switched from drinking beer to having a couple of glasses of red wine. That took some weight off and made me feel better too.
I stayed away from smoke filled environments.
Even though I never smoked cigarettes, I found out that second hand smoke was affecting my health. Thank goodness that many states are adopting clean air legislation banning indoor smoking . There are still places that are havens for the nicotine addicts, but frankly, I avoid them as much as possible. I have a certain amount of sympathy for smokers who know better, but I just can’t let them kill me.
I got tested again.
At first the doctor thought I would have to go on medication to curtail my natural cholesterol production. Somehow the dieting and exercise, along with the stress reduction and clean air, caused a dramatic change in my test results. The weight loss from 240 pounds to 190 seemed to make a big difference too. For now, I don’t need to take medications. My cholesterol levels are down to acceptable levels along with my blood pressure. I am going to keep my new habits and stay as healthy as I can.