A few months ago I had some routine testing done. When I went in to my doctor’s office to discuss the results, she looked me and said, ‘You have high cholesterol. Do you exercise regularly? Eat out often?’ I was astonished. I exercise 30-60 minutes 5-6 days a week! She quizzed me on my last few meals before she believed I’ve been sticking to a healthier diet in recent months.
I had these tests done about 6 months after I started really cracking the whip on my eating habits and exercise. It made me wonder just how bad my cholesterol must have been before. Here was proof that a healthier lifestyle was exactly what I needed. I don’t feel comfortable discussing my numbers. But the fact that my doctor seemed concerned was worry enough. For those of you, like me, who don’t really know much about cholesterol, here’s what I know about it.
HDL cholesterol is good. LDL cholesterol is bad.
My HDL cholesterol was low, and my LDL cholesterol was too high. My doctor says I definitely need to continue exercise, and I don’t think I’ll have much of a problem with that. I’m sure over time I will be able to bring it down if I continue my regular exercise, but I am also going to start watching what I eat more closely.
I’ve tried to do a little bit of research on how to lower cholesterol. Since I’ve got the exercise thing right, I needed check out what I might be doing wrong in the diet department. Here’s some of the tips I’ve found on WebMD.
- Eat more fiber – get it from fruits and vegetables
- Fish and fish oil supplements – these contain cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids
- Moderate consumption of alcohol (one drink a day or women) can raise HDL ‘good’ cholesterol as much as 10% (hmmm…. Wine of the Week anyone?)
- Avoid saturated fat – use olive oil instead of butter for lower saturated fats.
This article on WebMD said that saturated fat is just as big a culprit as high cholesterol foods, if not more. I’ve never really thought to track saturated fat before. When I was tracking my food for weight loss, I used a great app called MyFitnessPal. I haven’t used it in over a year, but I’m starting to bring it out again, because MyFitnessPal not only tracks calories and exercise, it tracks the fats, cholesterol, and nutrients in the foods that you eat.
So far this week, my saturated fat intake has been under my daily recommended intake by 2-3 g each day. My dietary fiber has been exceeding my recommended intake. While doctors may think that the actual cholesterol in foods isn’t as big a concern, I think that it can’t hurt me to track that too. Looking at some of my stats on the right, Tuesday is a morning where I had one whole egg for breakfast, and Wednesday was a morning where I ate overnight oats for breakfast. The one whole egg makes a pretty big difference. So, I’m going to continue opting for some lower cholesterol breakfast options. Here’s what I ate the last two days.
Apples & Cinnamon Overnight Oats
- 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1/3 cup almond milk
- 1/2 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 grated apple
Mix all ingredients together in a container, and stick in the fridge overnight. Ready to eat in the morning! Serve alone, or with peanut butter on top.
Nutrition (with peanut butter)
Saturated Fat: 2.1 g
Cholesterol: 3.3 mg
Turkey Bacon & Veggie Scramble
- 4 egg whites, separated from yolks of a large egg
- 2 slices of turkey bacon, cut in small strips
- 1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
- 1/8 cup red onion, chopped
Nutrition (with toast)
Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 30 mg
My diet has changed significantly from what it was a year ago. I tried to eat healthy, but allowed myself a lot of cheat meals. I bet I ate fast food twice a week. You don’t really think about it, as long as you’re exercising, you think you can ‘eat whatever you want.’ If this high cholesterol is not hereditary, then this is proof that a healthy diet, not exercise alone, is the best way to stay healthy.
Does anybody have any other tips or advice on getting your cholesterol in check? What are some good references for learning more?