Better Cholesterol Levels for Better Health

How I Lowered My Cholesterol 44 Points Without Medication

cholesterol test6 months ago I opened the letter from my clinic and saw the results of my blood test. My cholesterol was 243. That’s high. Medication is often recommended for a cholesterol level above 240. So now I knew I had to do something.

I had just been in for a routine physical exam. I knew my cholesterol could be a little high. 2 years ago it was 203 which is borderline high.

With my level now at 243 my doctor recommended I try to lower my cholesterol naturally with diet and exercise. Then, after trying that, if my cholesterol was still high I would be advised to go on cholesterol lowering medication. I did not want that. So I started researching about how to lower my cholesterol without medication.

Lowering My Cholesterol – Getting Started
The most common advice is to eat less fatty foods and less junk food. Eat more fruits and vegetables. And of course get more exercise.

Most people already know these things. But there were a few new things I learned.

I didn’t really know what trans fat was. Sure I’d heard of it. You see the labels on all kinds of grocery store items claiming “0 grams trans fat”. Trans fat is probably the worst thing you can consume. It’s pretty well accepted by everyone that it’s not good. It raises cholesterol levels. Actually it raises the level of bad cholesterol and lowers the level of good cholesterol. Trans fat is unsaturated fat that has been partially hydrogenated. A lot of products contained trans fat in the past. It has been taken out of many products. But it’s still around. French fries from many restaurants may be cooked in oils that contain trans fat. It’s also found in commercially sold baked goods like cookies, cakes, chips, and donuts.

I had no idea that sugar could cause heart disease. I thought it was just fatty foods and lack of exercise. More about this in a minute.

I hadn’t really thought about processed food being bad. The more I learned the more I discovered it to be true.

I couldn’t remember which was the bad cholesterol and which was the good. I know, I was pretty out of touch with this! HDL is the good cholesterol and LDL is the bad cholesterol. This is a simplification though. It’s more complicated than that.

Education
I started looking for the best information I could find about lowering my cholesterol. I found many good sources on the Internet including WebMD, Wikipedia, the Mayo Clinic website, and the American Heart Association website. There’s more information about heart disease than you need.

I also stumbled upon some new ideas. I found a book by Dr Dwight Lundell, a heart surgeon of 25 years. And another book by Dr Stephen Sinatra and Dr Jonny Bowden, another heart surgeon and a nutritionist. They all claim that sugar is more harmful than fat and cholesterol. This topic is a little controversial and new studies are revealing new ways of thinking about preventing heart disease. The basic theme is that cholesterol is not as bad as everyone says. In fact it’s very important to have enough of it.

Foods To Avoid
Sugar. Deserts. Ice cream. Cookies. Candy. Anything with sugar I try to avoid. This is not as difficult as you might think. Dark chocolate is actually a healthy choice that is recommended. As long as it’s at least 70% cocoa. There are many fruits that are sweet tasting too.

White bread should be avoided. I’m even getting to the point of avoiding wheat bread because there is apparently evidence that wheat is bad for you.

Red meat is often blamed for causing bad health. But I don’t totally avoid it. I try to eat the leaner meats like 93% fat free hamburger. I still enjoy a steak once in a while. A hamburger is fine too. I’m more resistant to eating the bun than the meat.

Foods You Should Eat
Blueberries are high on the recommended list. They contain antioxidants and can be very beneficial for heart health.

Oat meal. This is probably the biggest change I made in my diet. I eat a bowl of old fashioned oat meal every morning. The flattened kind. My wife likes the steel cut oatmeal which is not flattened and even more healthy because it’s retains more of it’s nutrients. Add blueberries to the oatmeal and you have a very healthy breakfast. Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber too. Studies have indicated that it can reduce cholesterol.

Fruits, vegetables, and nuts. I’ve eaten more apples and bananas during the past 6 months. I’ve also eaten more almonds, walnuts, and other kinds of nuts. Almonds and walnuts are two of the more nutritious nuts. You’ll find almonds on most lists of heart healthy foods. Avocados and olive oil are also on most heart healthy food lists. I try to use them as often as I can.

Supplements
Fish Oil. This is one of the most beneficial supplements for heart health. Fish, especially salmon, is high in omega 3 fatty acids. Most Americans do not consume enough omega 3. We get too much omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 is commonly found in vegetable oils which has been promoted as a healthy alternative to animal fats. Some research now suggests that replacing animal fats with omega 6 vegetable fats may increase the risk of heart disease. So, omega 3 from salmon and sardines, or from fish oil supplements, is good for your heart.

Vitamins and minerals.
I hit a dead end when trying to find the best quality multivitamin. I searched the internet and found several websites that claimed to review them. But the reviews were also sponsored and didn’t appear to be honest and objective. Making sure the content of a multivitamin matches the label on the bottle is important. But the quality and amount of each ingredient is also important. I think that finding a quality multivitamin is a good idea. But I don’t have any recommendations on which brand is best.

Exercise
This is the one I’ve been most resistant to. I don’t really enjoy exercising. But I found a solution that works for me. I run up the stairs in my house about 30 times. It’s only about a 15 minute workout. I don’t have to leave home. I don’t have to even change clothes. I just do it and I’m done. It’s good enough to get me winded and get my heart beating fast.

The Cholesterol Test 6 Months Later
I really didn’t know what to expect when I got my cholesterol checked again. I figured I made some improvement but it was only a guess on what the numbers would be. I opened the letter with the lipid panel results and found that my total cholesterol was 199. Wow, I was glad to see that. From 243 to 199. From high to acceptable. Borderline high is considered 200-240. Above 240 is high.

But I had to look closer at the specific types. LDL was now at 132. It had been 161 six months ago. HDL went from 54 to 44. Triglycerides went from 141 to 116. Everything was improved except HDL. HDL is the good kind of cholesterol so a high number is better.

Total Cholesterol to HDL Ratio
Some say this is a more accurate indicator than the simple total cholesterol number. According to an article on the WebMD website a ratio of 3.5 to 1 is good. A ratio of 5 to 1 is bad. Higher is worse. My ratio went from 4.5 to 4.53. So it’s actually a bit worse than it was before even though my total cholesterol is much lower.

Triglycerides to HDL Ratio
According to Dr Jonny Bowden this is a better indicator than the total cholesterol number. My ratio went from 2.6111 to 2.636. A good number is 2. A bad number is 5. The closer to 2 you can be the better. So my ratio is not bad but it worsened a bit since 6 months ago.

C Reactive Protein
According to Dr Dwight Lundell this test is as good an indicator for coronary artery disease as LDL or possibly better. My result was .3 which is good. Anything below 1.0 is low risk for heart disease. Anything above 3.0 is high risk. I did not have this test done 6 months ago so I don’t know if it changed for me. I feel pretty good about my number being .3.

LDL Particle Size Test
This test had to be done at another lab because my local clinic does not perform this one. There’s a lot of details here and it gets beyond the scope of my knowledge. Basically the test measures the amount of large LDL particles and small LDL particles. It also measures HDL and VLDL (very low density lipoproteins). The large particles are harmless and the small particles are harmful. I don’t know what affects the particle size or how you go about making improvements here. I’ve read that this is genetic and may be difficult to change naturally.

Summary
Going forward I’ll continue exercising as much as I can stand it. I know you have to keep it fun or it won’t continue. Exercising is important though and it helps improve HDL.

Avoid the bad foods, eat the healthy foods, and take some quality supplements. Avoiding fast food and processed food may be one of the main things that helped improve my cholesterol level. Avoid white bread and most wheat products. Avoid or cut back on pasta. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Cook with extra virgin olive oil. Take omega 3 fish oil supplements with DHA and EPA. Take a quality multivitamin pill and baby aspirin daily (if it’s OK with your doctor).

For more information about how to lower cholesterol read some of my other articles.

We’ll see where this takes me. The next cholesterol test will tell. In 6 months I’ll have that answer.

15 Responses to How I Lowered My Cholesterol 44 Points Without Medication

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate
    your efforts and I will be waiting for your next write ups thanks once again.

  • Thank you very much for your help – this article has really helped me. Its nice to hear from someone who has actually reduced their cholesterol naturally.

  • Thanks for your cholesterol story! I, too, wanted to lower my cholesterol without statins, so six months ago I started my new exercise routine on my treadmill of 3 miles per day on a 7.5 incline, and drinking a full glass of fiber every evening. My total cholesterol dropped from 206 to 199; HDL went up from 51 to 63 and LDL dropped from 140 to 118. I suspect it was the combination of both exercise and fiber that got my numbers into normal range. Whatever, I’m happy!

  • Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve just created a blog about healthy lifestyles with some articles about my “cholesterol experience”, which is similar to the one you wrote in your blog. Also my LDL and total cholesterol level decreased when I stopped eating certain food, but my HDL remained unchanged in spite of running and exercise (probably not enough). My diet presents some differences if compared with yours, as I live in the Mediterranean area, where carbohydrates like pasta and white bread have always been a significant part of our daily diet (I cannot imagine what I can eat here as a substitute for pasta!). Keep up the good job!

  • The truth is this.
    Science proves that total cholestetol below 150 never have heart attacks (Framinham Nurses study).
    If your LDL is above 70 you form plaque in arteries – the more LDL the worse especially if triglycerides are high since that correlates with very small LDL particle size.
    If your LDL is below 70 you cannot build artery plaque and you can reverse the plaques you already formed. (studies by Dr Esselstyn et al).
    There are people in Africa who eat plant based diets whose LDL never goes higher than 65. That is the real “normal”.
    We have industtialized foods and eat far too much meat.
    Cut out dairy, fish, and meats and eggs or you will never get LDL lower than 70.
    Go VEGAN but only if you take vitamin B12 and a multiple vitamin and fish oil. Remember VEGAN is not natural so uou need the vitamims.
    I know Vegans with cholesterol total in 80’s.
    I am vegan and my total cholesterol is 84 but i also take statin. LDL is 37. TG is 54
    HDL is 36

  • I am 59 and cholesterol is 243. I care for a husband with Alzheimer’s which is stressfull. I quit a job 2 years ago due to husbands condition. I need help on lowering my ldl and hdl

    • Thanks for your comment Jean. I think the basic advice to help lower cholesterol is to try get a little more exercise, don’t smoke, don’t eat foods with trans fat, high sat. fat, and high sugar, and eat more foods that have been reported to lower cholesterol like avocados, fish, nuts, etc (the Mediterranean diet). I think the low carb diet is helpful too (wheat belly book). Also, consider the details of your cholesterol levers like LDL, HDL, VLDL, and the C-Reactive protein test. The detail numbers may be more important that the total cholesterol number. Best of luck to you!

  • Thanks for the helping. During my early twenties, I had my cholesterol tested and The result was high(I can’t remember the value). Recently about two weeks ago and I had it redone and total cholesterol was 237. I am scared because I love meat etc. I keep wanting to stop and I keep telling myself this is the last time only to eat a little the next day. I keep asking myself if I’m waiting for something to happen before I start to take care of my health. I have been having occasional pain in my chest and when this happens, my mind goes straight to the cholesterol. How can I discipline my self? Thanks.

  • Jeff, thank you for sharing your story. My cholesterol was 246 and LDL was 171. I followed a similar diet for 2 months and it dropped to 232 and 160 which gives me the indication that I am on the right track and may get similar results to your over 6 months. Your article was posted a couple of years ago. Are you still keeping the diet and is your cholesterol still dropping? Does it ever hit the point where no matter what diet you keep it will just stay at that level? The reason I am asking is that I can probably keep my diet for another 6 months to get my numbers under 200 for cholesterol and under 130 for LDL but I am really depriving myself of everything: red meat, cheese, butter, sweets. It is not much fun not enjoy things you love.

    • hi Sergey,
      thanks for writing.
      I’m not always keeping to my diet, but always conscious of it.
      Mostly I try to avoid sugar and bread, processed food, carbs.
      I have not checked my cholesterol for a while, but will be doing so soon.
      I will post again after that.
      I still believe that eating meat and cheese is OK, much better than sugar and bread.
      Also, moderation is a compromise, a little bit of bread or sweets is maybe OK sometimes.
      Jeff

  • I’m a 41 yo and my total cholesterol was 326 in December, 2015 after being borderline high throughout most of my life (since teenage years). This was while on a statin although I had stopped the statin for about a week. After completely changing my eating lifestyle (eating primarily fruits, veggies, tofu, beans and oatmeal, cutting out all processed foods and losing 25 lbs, in addition to get more exercise, my total cholesterol in July of 2016 was 114. LDL was 72. My other numbers were all normal as well. Diet and exercise can make a huge difference, at least for me, but you can do it temporarily. It has to be a lifestyle, not a diet.

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