In my family tree, I have a mother, grandmother, two sisters and an aunt who all suffer from high cholesterol. Out of this group of five people, everyone over the age of 40 has had at least one heart attack. With this family history in mind, I was scared away from cheeseburgers and bacon a long time ago.
Growing up, I had my cholesterol tested. When it came back on the borderline of high, I began to work out like a maniac and adopted a vegetarian diet. Family members would ask me how I lowered my cholesterol and I told them the truth: diet and exercise. If I had managed to stick to this diet plan, my cholesterol would have remained at safe levels. Over time, I stopped my diet and exercise regimen. As a result, my cholesterol levels began skyrocketing.
Part of the reason my cholesterol rose again is because I stopped swimming. After attending swim practices for 40 hours a week and competing in college, I was burned out on my sport. Once college graduation rolled around, my entire swimming regimen went out the window. Before graduation, I had already given up my vegetarian diet. With so many hours spent in a pool each week, I needed the instant calories and protein from meat. Unfortunately, this left me without an exercise program and without a healthy diet by the time I was 20.
Making it Drop
When I had my blood drawn two years ago, the doctor told me that my cholesterol levels had hit 286. He wanted to put me on statins, but I dislike taking any prescription drugs. In my mind, any company that makes a profit from selling me a medicine might be inclined to give me a prescription I do not need. Although my doctor was against my decision, we agreed to let me try a diet and exercise program to get my cholesterol levels down.
Since my cholesterol levels were great in college, I decided to return to some of my healthier habits. I started taking three yoga classes a week and began running again two times a week. I also returned to my vegetarian diet and started buying more fresh vegetables. After reading up on nutrition, I adopted the habit of eating oatmeal for breakfast and mixing high fiber foods in my other meals.
My goal was to figure out a way to lower my cholesterol without medications, but I was fine with the idea of supplements. I began taking fish oil tablets every day and a multi-vitamin. By the time I returned to the doctor, the decrease was obvious. Two years later, my ratio of LDL to HDL is just a 3.3. When I tell my family how I lowered my cholesterol, they wrinkle their noses. Like most people, taking a statin every day is easier than adopting lifestyle changes. For me, changing my lifestyle was not just about lowering my heart attack risk. When I wake up in the morning now, I feel great. I feel healthier and all of the extra running means I just completed my first marathon! How I lowered my cholesterol is not for everyone, but it is a decent alternative for younger individuals or people with moderately high cholesterol.
Sources: Author’s own experience
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