How's Your Diet?

get fat posterIncreasingly Americans are evaluating the healthfulness of their diet. I started just a few years ago, when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. My wake-up call. It hit me by surprise as I prided myself on being discerning about what I put in my mouth.

However, unless my doctor was lying, I needed to kick it in the boot, or get used to the potential for a heart attack or stroke. Neither of these outcomes excited me, so I started looking closely at what I was eating. My doctor offered statins as a first course. I was and am not excited by statins since they have been linked with memory loss, muscle pain and ACL tears. I'm active, play basketball, and I already have enough muscle pain and problem remembering things.  I asked for a chance to change my diet, and my doc actually scoffed. However, I insisted that he give me three months to try..

I looked into everything that I could do to lower my cholesterol. What I discovered was that I was eating well at my main meals. It was in-between and before those meals that I got myself into trouble. My two favorite things to consume are coffee and ice cream. Now, I look wistfully at the ice cream aisle and forgo the deliciousness that resides there. (Most of the time.) What was really getting me in trouble was my coffee consumption. The half and half creamer was a big part of the problem, but the other part was that I brew all my coffee in a French press. There is a chemical in unfiltered coffee called cafestrol. Cafestrol potentiates LDLs, the bad cholesterol. Not only was I putting a lot of half and half in my coffee I was also making it quite a bit easier for cholesterol to reside in my veins.

What did I do? I started with two things, eating a lot of steel cut oats and cutting out half and half from my coffee. (I did not switch to drip coffee.) From there I evaluated everything that approached my mouth. By paying attention to what I ate, eating oatmeal every day, and eliminating dairy fats, I lowered my LDLs from over 200 to 128 in my three month time limit. I'm still borderline, but I did get a call from my doctor saying that whatever I was doing was working. He called me Superman as I was the first person who had lowered their cholesterol by this margin simply by diet in all his time as a doctor.  He's been a doctor for 30+ years. So I feel pretty good about my route to health, without statins.

For the high blood pressure, I simply went on the walks that my wife asked to go on, increased my physical activity, reduced my smoking of cigarettes, and restarted the yoga I had been doing. That took care of it for me.

Warning: Things like genetics and hidden causes, like liver disease, can elevate both blood pressure and cholesterol so consult your doctor before doing anything on your own.

Here are just a few things that you can do to help lower your cholesterol:

  1. Increase physical activity, even an extra walk helps.
  2. Eat oatmeal, it is proven to reduce cholesterol.
  3. Reduce dairy fats: I switched from cow's milk to Almond milk. It is the closest thing to real cow's milk I've found, and I like it fine. Switch from cow's cheese to goat cheese as it is lower in cholesterol generally.
  4. Switch from a French press to Drip coffee. I didn't want to, but it will help most people.
  5. Eat Fish: Halibut, sardines, salmon, lake trout, Albacore tuna. herring, and mackerel top the list of high in Omega 3 fatty acids. It reduces blood pressure and your risk of developing blood clots.
  6. Eat one handful of unsalted nuts per day. They greatly aid artery health. I just added mine to the oatmeal. (Cashews are not nuts, they are fruits, and therefore aren't helpful.)
  7. Switch your oil of choice to olive oil. It lowers LDLs, the bad, and leaves your HDLs, the good, untouched. Two Tablespoons a day is adequate to achieve the healthful effect.
  8. Cook instead of buying ready made food. This saved me a lot of money. I eat out less, and my wife and I really enjoy putting the meal together. We talk a lot more and have a glass of wine. It was the best thing that I did to help my health.

Suggested by this Mayo Clinic article.

Healthy or Not? You Decide.
Cholesterol: My Wake Up Call

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Cam McNeeley
Dang that coffee! I'll just have to accept the days it takes off my life.

Posted on 12/22/11 7:18 PM.

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Robert Kelsey
I totally concur. Of all the things that I "had" to do, giving up the French Press was the only thing that I wouldn't. We all just do what we can do so that we are around to delight our friends and family for a very long time. Thanks for commenting, McNeeley. Appreciate it. It abides.

Posted on 12/22/11 7:53 PM in reply to Cam McNeeley.

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