Two years ago, I had blood work done as follow-up to a gynecological visit. I’d given birth to two stillborn babies and had put on quite a lot of weight. The purpose of the blood work was to track down possible issues related to weight gain. Tests showed elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and too-low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Both of these conditions pose problems, reports the American Heart Association. My physician said that if I couldn’t reduce the bad LDL-C and up my good HDL-C, I’d have to start medication. I took that as a challenge.
I’m a naturalista who avoids drugs as much as possible. I’ve treated other health issues successfully supplements and diet, so I figured I could do the same with my cholesterol issues. Turns out, I was right–blood work done last year revealed that my bad cholesterol was down in the normal range (below 200 mg/Dl) and my good cholesterol was up to a healthier level (over 50 mg/Dl). Here’s how I did it.
* I weaned myself off from antidepressants. After the loss of the babies, I hit a serious depression jag. I also experienced more intense panic attacks. I began taking the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) paroxetine (trade name Paxil) in 2004. Less was known about Paxil then–like the fact that users often experience weight gain (reports Mayo Clinic). PubMed.gov also says that Paxil may elevate LDL-C. I quit taking Paxil in June, 2010.
* I treat anxiety with herbs and mental health exercises. Antidepressants may elevate cholesterol, but ironically, anxiety, may also raise it, said Medical News Today in 2005. To counteract potential anxiety-related cholesterol issues, I found natural treatments to reduce panic symptoms. Taking St. John’s Wort, vitamin B, Emergen-C and Bach’s Rescue Remedy daily helps me manage anxiety.
* I cut most red meat, eggs and dairy from my diet. I get the bulk of my protein from fish, soy, legumes, nuts, edamame and tofu. For dairy, I eat plain yogurt, kefir and a little skim only on cereal (Special K or Cheerios). I replace meat in main dishes with these sources. I eat fish almost every day and take an omega-3 supplement. The omega-3 boosts good HDL-C while cutting animal fats lowers bad cholesterol.
* I walk regularly. I also run up and down the stair several times a day. I can’t afford expensive gym membership or exercise equipment and these free fitness activities suit me well. I’ve found that regular exercise has greatly improved my HDL levels and reduced anxiety symptoms.
These strategies have helped me lose some weight which has had a positive effect on my cholesterol. I was surprised at how easy it was to get cholesterol under control with just some simple lifestyle changes.