About a year ago, my wife encouraged me to get my cholesterol level checked. She had recently had her cholesterol checked and the results were normal. I went ahead and scheduled a test and fasted for twelve hours prior to the blood work being done.
The test itself was uneventful. The nurse checked my blood pressure, asked a few questions, and withdrew some blood. I was told to expect results within a few days. If I didn’t hear from the doctor’s office with a few days, I was to call back.
Turns out the results came back within a couple of days. I didn’t need to call the office as they decided to call me. Instead of telling me what the results were, I was told to come in as soon as possible to review the results with the doctor.
By the time I hung up the phone I am assuming the worst. How bad could the results be if they are not willing to discuss the results over the phone? Needless to say, I returned to the doctor’s office that same day.
The results were not good. My total cholesterol was 244, the LDL level was 161, and my HDL was 38. For reference, the recommended results at the time of my test were less than 200 for total cholesterol, less than 100 for LDL and greater than 40 for HDL. It was explained to me that the LDL level, the “bad” cholesterol, needed to drop. On the other hand, the “good” cholesterol, HDL, needed to increase. One of the ways that HDL increases is through exercise. LDL can decrease by a change in diet.
To be honest, I was shocked with the results. I thought my results would be in line with my wife’s since we have the same diet. No, that was definitely not the case.
I also found out that your genes, your family, has a lot to do with your cholesterol levels. It didn’t take me long to figure out what side of my family was to blame for my higher than expected cholesterol results. I found out from my father that when he first had his cholesterol checked just a few short years ago that his total cholesterol was well over 300! He immediately started taking medicine to reduce his total cholesterol.
So what did I do to drop my total cholesterol by 56 points in 8 months?
Three things I did to help reduce my cholesterol level are:
1) Exercise more – I added about 20 minutes of walking each day to my work schedule. I have a desk job and don’t get a lot of physical activity during the working hours. I make an effort every day to walk at least 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon at work. This is in addition to the moderate running I do a few times a week.
2) Oatmeal – Do you know how easy it is at work to trot down to the vending machine and buy a candy bar when you are hungry? As a matter of fact, it is too easy. I now have a container of oatmeal, along with a box of raisins for flavoring, at work. When hunger pangs hit, I go to the area kitchen, microwave a half cup of water, add some oatmeal and raisins, and enjoy.
3) No more cheese – I personally think this has had the biggest impact on my cholesterol reduction, a low cholesterol diet. Since I am not a doctor, I can’t be certain. I immediately stopped eating slices of cheese. For whatever reason, I love cheese. Regularly, I would eat a slice of cheese or a couple slices of cheese. I knew that couldn’t be too good for me. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any cheese in my diet. I’ll eat a burrito with cheese or a pizza with cheese, but I no longer eat slices of cheese.
That’s about all I did, I didn’t go on a restrictive diet or start taking medicine to reduce my cholesterol. I made a few lifestyle changes that I have faithfully implemented. It’s been more than 365 days since I have been “cheese” free.
Like I said, my total cholesterol dropped by 56 points, from 244 to 188 in eight months. Also, my LDL cholesterol dropped from 161 to 124, still high but better than it was. The only disappointment was that my HDL remained the same at 38.
I hope that my story has inspired you to be aware of your cholesterol level and if needed, take action. While specific recommendations related to reducing cholesterol are best left to professional health care personal, I’m hoping that you will take care of yourself.