I have a confession. I’ve always had high cholesterol. Like, scary high. So high that at one point (in my twenties, just to give you context) my PCP wanted to put me on a statin medication. I didn’t really want to since my husband and I were planning on trying to have a baby in a couple months. And you can’t be pregnant on statins. So I wasn’t opposed to the medication on principle, it just seemed stupid to take it for 3 months, to come off it again. While I didn’t like the numbers I saw after that initial blood test, they weren’t altogether unexpected. Both my parents were on statins as long as I can remember despite good diets, so it seems there is a strong genetic component. Add to that the fact that I haven’t tasted a cheese I didn’t like, and high cholesterol seemed more a matter of when, not if.
But I also really don’t like when someone tells me I have to do something or I can’t do something. This PCP basically told me it wasn’t possible to lower my cholesterol without medication. She also wasn’t very open to discussing alternatives, even after I explained about wanting to be pregnant soon. Hmm. Well, I’ll show you.
So Operation Lower My Cholesterol began. In my research, I had read that losing 5 pounds could potentially lower your cholesterol 30 points. I should add that at this time in my life I was at my heaviest weight, so that seemed like a good place to start. If it wasn’t water or alcohol, I didn’t drink it (and even then, I limited myself to 1 glass of wine. These were desperate times after all). I ate salad without dressing and looked at EVERY nutrition label. I upped my intake of fruit & veggies. If we ordered pizza, I had one slice. I didn’t change much in terms of exercise as this was before Fast Laine Fit. Gyms weren’t something I had good luck keeping up with.
Fast forward 6 months to my first follow up blood draw. My total cholesterol was still in the high range, but it had certainly come down. My good to bad ratio was stellar though, so that was all I needed to see to give me some encouragement to keep going. That PCP was still talking about statins, but I wasn’t really listening. Maybe my bad cholesterol would always err on the high side, but if I could at least keep my ratio low, I would be happy with that.
A year after that PCP first wanted to put me on statins, I had lost 35 pounds and was pregnant with my daughter. To say I stopped focusing on my cholesterol as much after that would be an understatement. But I found those good nutrition habits stayed with me.
Then recently, my husband got his own yearly blood results back and didn’t like his cholesterol numbers. Knowing I too had struggled with this, he came to me saying he wanted to lower his. So if I was going to be a supportive wife, I guess I had to get my own blood draw so I knew where I was starting from too. I wasn’t ready to hear about statins again from a doctor, so on the second Saturday of the month I went to HEB after fasting to have my cholesterol panel done. I was anxious, and had been for days. I just knew it was going to be scary high again. So I sat in the busy grocery store, sweating, across from the nurse and numbers started flashing on her device. I saw 199. Ok, not terrible. Certainly not in the realm it once was. I can be better about what I eat and bring that down. The nurse finished jotting down all the numbers then turned my paper around to show me. Turns out 199 was my TOTAL cholesterol, not my LDL! I’ve never had total cholesterol under 200 before! It’s unusual to say, but sitting on that hard plastic seat was one of my proudest adult moments. There’s also a part of me that really wants to reach out to the PCP all these years later just so she knows it actually IS possible to lower cholesterol without medication. The body truly is an amazing thing.