When a doctor starts your appointment with the phrase, "I've got some bad news..." you know it's not going to be a great day. That's how a friend of mine (we'll call him Tim) got the news that he had "dangerously high cholesterol."
The doctor proceeded to tell Tim what that meant and wrote a prescription for a type of cholesterol-lowering drug called statins. After giving the prescription, the doctor scheduled a follow-up appointment and sent my friend on his way.
It was all wonderfully efficient. Here's your problem. This is the pill you need to take to fix it. Have a nice day.
That's when Tim called me. He already takes a handful of pills every day to combat other health issues. Tim was taking the pills the doctor prescribed, but he wanted to know if he could do anything else to lower his cholesterol. I told him there was, but he would have to take a close look at the things he did every day.
Starting out the morning with half a dozen fried eggs, sausage and bacon had to stop. Eating foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol would only make his situation worse. I had him invest in a non-stick pan, taught him how to separate the yolks from the eggs and replaced the white bread with a high fiber multigrain. On days he wanted something different; he has a high fiber cereal with fat-free milk or a low sugar oatmeal.
Changing nothing but breakfast can lower the bad cholesterol levels 4-6% in 60 days. But we were just starting.
Tim loves shellfish. In fact, he eats it at least three or four times a week. Unfortunately, shellfish is high in cholesterol. I suggested Tim switch to other types of seafood (baked, not fried) and save the shellfish for an indulgence once a week.
The last step was the most difficult. I told him he had to start exercising. He needed to start resistance training at least three days a week. On two of the four days he wasn't in the gym, he had to do something aerobic in nature. Take a walk, ride a bike, swim, in-line skate, something for at least 30 minutes.
The exercise part was a hard sell for Tim because he's been a couch potato for the last decade. But then I told him about the numbers.
A resistance training program can lower cholesterol levels by as much as 20% over a six month period of time. Add cardio to the mix and a drop of as much as 35% is not unusual. He looked at me in disbelief. "Thirty-five percent?" Tim said. "That's how much the drugs I'm taking are supposed to drop my cholesterol. Plus, they cost over $700 a year!"
Tim had his wake-up call. He took the medication as prescribed by his doctor, but he also started making healthier food choices. Two weeks after he began the medication, he went back to the gym. It wasn't easy, but those cholesterol test results taped to the refrigerator kept him going back.
Six months after his first test, Tim's cholesterol had dropped to 186. Borderline by today's standards, but certainly not the scary 254 he was at before. His doctor took him off the cholesterol medication with the understanding that he get another blood test in 3 months to confirm he was keeping it under control.
At nine months, Tim's cholesterol had dropped even further to 156 and he had lost almost 40 pounds of fat. He loves eating breakfast now because instead of making him feel bloated, it gives him the energy to face the day. Working out is something he looks forward to and he really likes all the attention he gets when he goes out. Of course saving $60 a month because he doesn't need cholesterol-lowering medication is a big plus.
Now it's time you took a look at your lifestyle. Are you taking medications to counteract the effects of a poor diet and lack of exercise? If you are, schedule an appointment with your doctor and see if it's time you started exercising. If not for your health, think of all the money you'll save.
Red Yeast Rice Update
Have you been told you should eat red yeast rice to lower cholesterol? That was actually TRUE. But the red yeast rice you can buy today is very different from what was on the shelf in the year 2000. Click Here for the whole story.
Progression of Atherosclerosis
What Cholesterol Numbers Mean
|Total Cholesterol (TC) = 200 (or less)
(This is a combination of HDL and LDL cholesterol numbers.)
|HDL = 45 (or higher)
(This is the "Good" Cholesterol)
|LDL = 100 (or lower)
(This is the "Bad" Cholesterol)
|Triglycerides = 150 (or lower)
(These are the fats your body makes from the food you eat.)
|Total Cholesterol to HDL Ratio = 4.4 (or lower)
(Higher than 4.4 and your cholesterol isn't balanced, potentially endangering your arteries.)
|Fasting Blood Glucose = 100 (or lower)
(Used to detect both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia and to help diagnose diabetes.)
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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.