This is the story of Samantha, a 38-year-old woman living in San Diego, CA who accidentally found out she had high cholesterol. The protagonist of our story has always been aware of the importance of a healthy life, regular diet and sporting activity. Her daily routine includes at least an hour of physical activity like yoga and running in the park even in bad weather.
Despite her efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle and eating well, Samantha had always struggled with one big problem: too high cholesterol in her blood.
Investigating Samantha’s family history, her doctor discovered that the girl’s parents also suffered from this problem. In fact, when they were in their 50s, both were diagnosed with high cholesterol.
Because of this previous family history, Samantha was at an increased risk of having high blood lipid levels. Despite her healthy eating habits and daily physical activity, her cholesterol levels always remained around 240 mg/dL.
Such high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood can cause serious problems for both heart and brain. In fact, Samantha’s parents both died due to heart attack and she certainly didn’t want to end up in the same way.
Samantha’s cardiologist prescribed her a cholesterol-lowering medication called statins . This type of drugs work in two different ways. First, the drastically reduce the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver. Second, they make the body to reabsorb of LDL (the so called “bad cholesterol”) preventing arteries plaque to form.
Samantha wasn’t totally happy with the solution her cardiologist suggested. In fact, she knew that statins work as long as you take them. So, she wasn’t happy having to rely on one medicine for the rest of her life.
Samantha was determined to find out how to lower cholesterol with diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle and, most of all, without the need to take medicines. She started doing internet searches and seeking advice from certified dieticians. After a few months, Samantha found out what to do to drastically decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke.
The plan was about changing her diet making it even healthier and adding strength training to her daily routine.
Strength training, also known as resistance training, requires you to do physical exercises properly designed to increase the body strength and endurance.
The resistance training involves push-ups, leg squats, pull-ups either using your body weight or weight machines for resistance.
As regarding the new diet plan, Samantha did a drastic cut to fat red meat like lamb, beef and pork. She also totally eliminated fried food, full-fat dairy such as butter, lard, cream and whole milk.
The most important change for Samantha was to supplement her diet with natural foods that were totally new to her till that point of her life. The first to be added to the diet were foods rich in plant sterols such as: pistachio nuts, sesame seeds and olive oil.
Why plant sterols? You should know that, while we digest foods, our body is more inclined to absorb plant sterols than cholesterol. Therefore, integrating our meal with plant sterols, we can lower the amount of bed cholesterol in our arteries and the risk of heart attack or stroke at the same time.
The second big change in the Samantha diet was assuming 15g of soluble fiber a day in the dietary supplement form. Soluble fiber has a feature that makes it a very powerful weapon for reducing blood fat. Once ingested, soluble fiber becomes one with cholesterol which, in this form, is not absorbed by the body but expelled.
Telling the truth, it was not so easy for the protagonist of our story to adapt to the new diet as it did not allow her to eat her favorite foods. Adjusting to the new exercise schedule also took several weeks. For Samantha, the key to success was her perseverance because lowering cholesterol with diet and exercises does not happen overnight, it takes you to stay focused on your schedule from three to six months.
Samantha did her homework for 8 long months. After a strict cholesterol-lowering diet, supplementation and targeted physical exercise, she was ready for a new lipid panel to know her current cholesterol levels.
Samantha was able to drop her cholesterol levels from 260 mg/dL to 180 mg/dL. These new blood fat levels significantly lowered Samantha’s heart attack risk caused by narrowed arteries due to fatty plaques. Artery-clogging atherosclerosis risk also highly dropped.
The Samantha’s story teaches you two important things.
First, doesn’t matter if your high cholesterol is coming from bad lifestyle or because of a family history of high fats in the blood, it is always possible to reverse the condition by adopting healthier habits and following a cholesterol-lowering diet.
Second, as soon as you discover you have too high cholesterol levels, let your doctor know about that. He/she will immediately give you guidelines to follow and/or medicines to take in order to minimize the risk of developing cardiovascular issues or ictus.