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I first discovered that I had high cholesterol levels when I was 23 years old. I was skinny as a rail, but inside, fat was globbing up my arteries. (Is globbing a word? Not sure). My body produced cholesterol like it was going out of style. I inherited this tendency from my mom, along with her nose (aarrrgghh!) and eyes.
Of course, I also ate the worst foods in the world, never thinking about cholesterol or how it could lead to hardening of the arteries, which could lead to heart attacks . . . Hell, I was 23, what did I know? At that age, you’re gonna live forever! (On the plus side, I did exercise like a fiend; aerobics being the fitness class of choice.)
Even my mom’s heart health woes didn’t faze me.
She suffered from high cholesterol and high blood pressure, a dangerous combination. In her sixties and seventies she suffered from heart attacks, angina, mini strokes . . . She had angioplasties and bypasses. She visited doctors way too often, and depended on a wide variety of prescription medications. Yikes. Not a pleasant way to live.
It wasn’t until I got to the top of that proverbial hill, at age 40, that I really began to take my heart health seriously. Suddenly, middle age was staring me down, and I didn’t like the look on its face. When my doctor took a blood test and my cholesterol level was something like 275, I knew I had to make some lifestyle changes.
I started fighting against cholesterol. I knew it wasn’t enough to simply exercise. I worked to eat a much healthier diet (you know, veggies, fruit, beans, whole grains, the whole kit and caboodle) and took natural cholesterol fighting supplements.
My dad was a BIG fan of garlic (I swear, he actually put in on his oatmeal) and claimed it cured high cholesterol and anything else that ailed you. He was pretty darn healthy, for an old guy. Of course, you could also smell him a mile away.
Taking my Dad’s sage advice, I tried so-called odor-free garlic supplements. My hubby let me know, gently, of course, that they weren’t the best form of perfume. (What?? The labels lied??).
Lifestyle changes improved my sense of well-being. However, it wasn’t enough to make significant changes in my total cholesterol level. My doctor prescribed Lipitor®, a statin drug, and along with diet and exercise, my total cholesterol level is at 179 (at my ripe old age of 60). There are pros and cons to taking statin drugs, as described in this document from the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
Luckily, I haven’t suffered from any noticeable side effects. And for some people, taking charge of their heart health through diet and exercise may be enough to avoid prescription medications.
Other ways to lower cholesterol levels:
Top 5 Lifestyle Changes to Improve your Cholesterol
How to Lower your Cholesterol without Drugs
©Vital Aging 4 Women. 2017