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High Cholesterol Message Board

High Cholesterol Board Index

Improved results!
Sep 15, 2002
Hi, all--
This is a follow-up to a message called "Greetings and Question" on Sept. 6. I'm happy to report improved cholesterol levels! I apologize in advance for the long message, but I wanted to include some background details.

Here are the numbers.
Before (May 31, 2002):
243 - Overall
136 - Triglycerides
161 - LDL
55 - HDL
4.4 - Overall / HDL ratio

After (Sept. 11, 2002):
186 - Overall
129 - Triglycerides
120 - LDL
40 - HDL
4.7 - Overall / HDL ratio

The doc says this is good, so I'm happy. I'm not too worried about the increase in the ratio from 4.4 to 4.7, since my LDL went down 25%. But my next goal is to get LDL lower and HDL higher if possible.

The changes were achieved without medication, by the way. I've been inspired partly by the book "Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease." Also, my father has heart disease, and is taking drugs to control his cholesterol. His father had angina and died of a heart attack. As a male aged 48 and counting, I want to remain healthy without medication. Fortunately my blood pressure has never been high, I don't smoke, and my weight is OK for my height.

In general, I've found improving my health is a lot like saving money. If you're patient, and focus not only on the big things but also on the little things, day in and day out, you'll see improvement. I've also stopped telling myself that eating something healthy excuses me for eating something unhealthy. It doesn't work that way.

I've been getting moderate exercise--from two to four 30-minute walks every week, with occasional 15-minute sessions on the exercise bike. I've also improved my diet, as outlined below.

Meat: No change - I've been a 90% vegetarian for the past several years. For protein I eat rice & beans (or lentils or dal), tofu, or peanut butter. I eat seafood or chicken once in a while. I never eat bacon, sausage, fast food burgers & burritos, or other artery cloggers like that.

Snacks: I've completely given up candy bars, donuts, cake, cookies, danishes, and all the other delicious poisons I used to eat a few times a week. Instead I eat apples, non-fat Fig Newmans, low-fat Almondina cookies, peanuts, soy nuts, sunflower seeds, carrot sticks, natural peanut butter (ground peanuts only), and non-fat pretzels.

Saturated fat: I've sworn off French fries, high-fat salad dressings (Ranch, Blue Cheese, etc.), high-fat corn and potato chips, high-fat crackers, butter & margarine, mayonnaise, high-fat cheeses, cream and half & half, anything containing hydrogenated vegetable oil, and anything with coconut or other tropical oils. I've been drinking skim milk for a couple of years. I eat baked chips, low-fat crackers or rice cakes, and low-fat cheese. You'd be surprised how good corn can taste without butter. (A little salt helps.) I've also popped popcorn in a pot with just vegetable oil and salt, and that was surprisingly good. I still eat a couple of tablespoons of fresh-grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese on pasta dishes (glad I don't have to give up that treat!!). On salads I use olive oil and vinegar (Japanese rice vinegar is tasty, and so is balsamic vinegar).

Other sources of fat: I still eat avocado when I want it, also cashews, walnuts, almonds, and vegetable oils. I have started using Spectrum Naturals organic safflower oil (11 grams of monounsaturated fat and no saturated fat per serving) for cooking. Before eating things packed in oil, like olives or artichoke hearts, I drain off as much oil as I can.

Caffeine: I'm now drinking a couple of cups of hot tea every day instead of two to four cups of coffee. I very seldom drink colas, opting instead for canned iced tea once in a while. Most of the time I drink water.

Alcohol: No change - I have one or two drinks a day and have been doing so for the past several years. ("a drink" = One 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, OR One 5-ounce glass of wine, OR 1.5 ounce of 80-proof distilled liquor.)

Other factors: The things that stress me out haven't gone away, but I've tried to improve my attitude toward them. I have a grueling 25-mile one-way commute to work, and a job that pays the bills but is not particularly satisfying. But I have been more conscious of breathing deeply from the diaphragm from time to time, not getting caught up in road rage, taking regular breaks from the computer, and making more time for friends and activities I enjoy.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but these are some of the things that have helped me. I plan to stay on this path.


[This message has been edited by moderator2 (edited 09-15-2002).]
Thanks for the feedback.

[quote]The only number that significantly improved was your total cholesterol. This appears to be due to a drop in LDL as well as a drop in HDL (not good).[/quote]

Based on what I've read, the reason HDL is "good" is that it helps your body get rid of surplus cholesterol, removes cholesterol from peripheral tissues, and prevents lipid accumulation in arterial walls. Therefore if your LDL is lower, don't you have a decreased need for HDL?

[quote]Exercise is one way to improve your HDL, but a method that typically gets more significant results is to just eat more red meat and natural saturated fats.[/quote]

Hmmm...First time I've seen this advice. I think I'll seek a second and third opinion on this one.

Thanks for the info. By "cutting out carbs (sugars)," do you mean simple carbohydrates? Surely it's OK to keep eating complex carbs.

[quote]Originally posted by klook:
[b]By "cutting out carbs (sugars)," do you mean simple carbohydrates? Surely it's OK to keep eating complex carbs.[/b][/quote]

Ok to eat complex carbs? Depends. Complex carbs include everything from white bread to spinach. The white bread and other similar products made from refined wheat flour can raise your bloodsugar, and consequently your insulin levels, more than table sugar. Other complex carbs that you are better off avoiding or at least limiting are pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, and most all refined grains. These cause a significant rise in insulin, especially in susceptible individuals. High insulin levels stimulate the liver to produce more cholesterol. And any excess bloodsugar (glucose) that isn't burned immediately is either stored as glycogen (very limited storage capacity) or converted to triglycerides in the liver.

The kind of complex carbs that are good and healthy are vegetables, especially those that are high in fiber like brocolli, spinach, kale, and other dark green leafy greens. These typically have as much or more fiber than digestible (complex) carbohydrate. Grains, even whole grains, are very high in starch relative to the amount of fiber they contain. One serving of stone ground whole wheat flour contains approximately 30 grams of carbohydrate (mostly starchy complex carbs) and only about 3 grams of fiber.


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