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How I Reduced my Total Cholesterol by 61 Points in Three Months

In April I became eligible for Medicare, which provides for a number of diagnostic services. I chose an internist / geriatrician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital as my new primary care physician, and went to him for the allowed checkup and to order the tests. The blood test he gave me showed that my cholesterol level was high—the total cholesterol level was 252.

Rather than ask for prescription medication, I told my doctor that I would begin an exercise, diet, and food supplement regimen to bring it down below 200. Three months later, yesterday, I had my blood tested at an Osco pharmacy, and it was 191.

Here’s how I did it.

Exercise had been a hit or miss proposition for me, but I decided to dedicate a definite amount of time for it every day.

Oatmeal. I began to eat oatmeal for breakfast several times a week.

Hummus. Legumes like the beans that form the basis of hummus are known to bring cholesterol levels down. When I told my doctor I’d start to eat more hummus, he suggested that I try the Israeli type, rather than the Greek. I found a brand called Tribe at my local grocery store, and I like it very much. It’s much lighter than the Greek version. At first, I was spreading it on flatbread, but I recently discovered that it tastes especially good on celery.

Fish oil. I was already taking a fish oil supplement, a 1,200 mg capsule once a day.

Red yeast rice. I read that red yeast rice contains natural statins, and began to take 600 mg twice a day. The synthetic versions of statins are the basis of prescription medications for bringing cholesterol down.

Red meat. We had been reducing our red meat intake over the years, but I made a commitment to reduce mine even further.

After a month and a half, I had my blood tested at my closest Osco pharmacy. The machines that do the testing are right in the store, so the feedback is immediate. And the cost is only $30. Medicare doesn’t cover it, but I think it’s worth the cost to know how well I’m doing. The result this time was 228, so I knew I had to do more.

Oatmeal. I began to eat oatmeal for breakfast every day, and I have berries with it every few days. I’d have them every day, but they’re too expensive, even when you buy them frozen. This summer I’ve been buying them on sale and freezing them, so I should have a supply that will last through the winter.

Red yeast rice. I doubled the dosage of red yeast rice—to 1,200 mg twice a day. I was a bit unnerved when I noticed that my stool had become reddish colored, but it apparently isn’t harmful.

Fish oil. I quadrupled the amount of fish oil I was taking, to 2,400 mg twice a day. I plan to change to krill oil when I run out of the supply I have, since I read about the other benefits it provides.

Lecithin. I started taking 1,200 mg of lecithin once a day.

Skim milk. I love milk. Years ago, we changed from whole milk to 2%, but I realized that I’d have to switch to skim. Which I did.

Salad. I started eating a salad evey day, with spinach as the main ingredient, but including grated carrot and, when they’re on sale, avocados. We make our own dressing with olive and canola oils.

Almonds. I started eating a palmful (maybe 10) almonds per day.

FYI, I buy my food supplements online, where they’re cheaper than in stores, from a reputable manufacturer.

Yesterday’s test result was most gratifying. I feel more in control of my life and my health than ever before. My triglyceride level is still too high, but bringing that down will be the next step of the process.

And I’ve lost ten pounds over that same three months. Without being hungry, which means there’s a chance I won’t put the weight back on.

I’m really proud of myself!

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April 5, 2010 at 6:07 PM Dr John said...

Excellent: btw, the omega-3s actually raise LDL and HDL; it is probably worth the trade-off.

Most research shows that at least 1g of EPA/DHA is needed for a TG lowering effect.

And the best data is actually on 1-1.5 ounces of almonds daily, which is 23-35ish, but most people have to reduce your caloric intake by about 150 to make up for it, and the most effective reduction is usually in the starch/sugar category.

Best, and congratulations,
n.b. You can read the description of a WSJ program I did for them here http://bit.ly/56rmaU

April 6, 2010 at 5:08 AM Caro said...

Thanks for the information, Dr. John.

I'll be writing an update to this post in May.

May 2, 2010 at 4:21 PM malac said...

That is good information. My triglicerides were high at my checkup in april so I have added more raw spinach, nuts (esp. almonds), salmon and ground flaxseed to my diet. fish oil is out because it upsets my stomach. I am hoping that these changes will help - weight and amount of exercise are good, so diet changes are all that's left.

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