I originally discovered that I had high cholesterol during a routine checkup in 2006. At the time, I took it very seriously. Prior to learning this, I had only exercised infrequently at best. Then, I began trying to exercise by walking on the treadmill for a few minutes per day. Gradually, I built up to about an hour. I also purchased a recumbent bicycle, and began alternating biking and walking. To make these exercise sessions more interesting, I listened to my favorite music, usually Elton John. Exercise helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and helps to boost levels of good cholesterol. Exercise also helps you to lose weight, and it helped me to lose a significant amount of weight. I found that for every pound I lost, my total cholesterol dropped by two points. That was my experience; results from exercise may be different for different people, and, of course, there are no guarantees.
I also gave my diet a makeover, both to facilitate my weight loss, and to lower my cholesterol. Instead of crispy rice cereal at breakfast, I chose oatmeal, since it is higher in fiber. For variety, I topped it with a bit of high fiber cold cereal, such as Smart Start. I also began taking flaxseed tablets two or three times per day. Later, instead of taking the flaxseed tablet at breakfast, I purchased ground flaxseed, since it is higher in fiber, and sprinkled it on top of my yogurt. I also increased my fish intake, since tuna and salmon have omega-3s, which lower bad cholesterol, and raise good cholesterol. Instead of greasy cafeteria food, I brought tuna from home, and added a vegetable at lunch; I found sliced cucumbers to be the easiest item to pack and eat. To keep everything cold, I used a gel cold pack. At dinner, I added an extra vegetable or salad. In restaurants, I chose grilled salmon.
I also greatly lowered my sugar intake, since a high intake of sugar contributes to increased triglyceride levels. I drank no sodas or other sweetened beverages, and I used Splenda. I also lowered my fruit juice consumption, since juice is high in sugar. Many foods are high in sugar, and I read food labels, and tried to avoid items that contained high fructose corn syrup.
I took steps to avoid trans fats. I began to read food labels very carefully to see if the items contained hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. The process of hydrogenation creates trans fats. I chose peanut butter labeled “natural” and avoided things like cookies, crackers, and deep fried items on restaurant menus.
While all of these measures did help, they did not lower my cholesterol to normal levels. I later learned that my high cholesterol is hereditary, and that I probably inherited it from my father. Hereditary high cholesterol cannot be totally controlled with diet and exercise, so I have to take medication on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are many choices for medication, and my doctor and I found one that worked for me. I think of my doctor as my ally in the war on cholesterol, and I also recommend finding a doctor with whom you are comfortable discussing your health concerns.