T Nation

My Cholesterol is High

250 as of Columbus Day; it was only 210 exactly one year earlier. The doc said this is the level at which they normally suggest medication to lower cholesterol. I said I really didn’t want to start to take daily meds, and deal with daily side-effects. (In the interest of full disclosure, I totally neglected to tell him that I frequently take daily meds, like M or Alpha Male or TRIBEX or RED KAT, or occasionally HOT-ROX.)

He was willing to let me try to change my cholesterol through diet, because EVERY other indicator he had showed that I was healthy: blood sugar, liver function, kidney function, all “perfect” (his word). It’s obvious that I exercise, and that I normally eat decently, since even triglycerides were only 64, which he found remarkably low considering the high cholesterol level. I’m going for another blood test in January.

So…I’ve cut down on red meat and started relying more on chicken; just started having a bowl of Arrowhead Mills oats for breakfast (pre-workout) because of fiber (and ZEB said in a recent post something about oats actually raising HDL), started ordering big salads at Champp’s instead of the Pepperjack Bacon Stack Burger; started taking Barlean’s flax oil capsules (hoping that they do some good, because I don’t want to swallow the liquid form); take fiber capsules regularly.

I’m not doing anything radical (like becoming a vegetarian, or carrying a refrigerated bottle of flax oil with me everywhere), because I don’t want to “do the right thing” just to beat the January test; I want to incorporate changes in my diet that I can live with for the next 40 years.

Any suggestions? Amendments? Rips or rants? Hell, I’d even take a humorous hijack.

Thanks for visiting; please sign the guest book on your way out.

Im in the same boat as yourself. Im 29, 185lbs and my hdl is at 280! My ldl levels are very high also, which is a good thing. Everything else is normal. I also refused meds, but have found it difficult to change my diet. Good luck…

“…EVERY other indicator he had showed that I was healthy: blood sugar, liver function, kidney function, all “perfect” (his word).”

Then ignore what he says about cholesterol. Do a web search and discover it is not the bogeyman the docs make it into. He may not know any better, but you will. You do NOT want to take statin drugs.

Hey guys,

What exactly are your other numbers? Triglycerides, LDL, HDL, Glucose? Many docs say perfect but they can all be exactly borderline high. You should have a good amount of Omega 3’s like Carlson’s liquid fish oil in the summer and Cod liver oil in the winter. Make sure it’s lemon flavored and not unflavored or you’ll regret it! : )

Also, has anything else changed over the last year? Amount of sleep, increase in bodyfat (even a little), life stress, job communte, etc.

Jim

trainerjim,
I can’t recall any other numbers, except that my HDL-to-LDL ration was NOT good, and my triglycerides were 64 (he said 200 was where they start to worry).

I’m 45, 177, 5’8", BF is 10-12% (that’s a guess, based on a Tanita scale reading and adding a few percent).

Stress has jumped in the last year, and soared in the few months prior to my Columbus Day physical. Can anyone explain the relationship between stress and cholesterol? (Of course you reach for “comfort food” during times of stress.)

Hey, there TShaw!

trainerJim is right. When it comes to your health, you need to know your numbers. You want to know your total cholesterol number, HDL, LDL, ratio and triglycerides. Call your doc’s office and get them to fax the info to you and keep the report for future reference.

For a good read on how to calculate your LDL to HDL ratio, check out http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1189/is_6_275/ai_110229735

Dietarily, I’d recommend the following:

  • Almonds - A handful (1/4-1/2 cup) of raw almonds daily not only lowers cholesterol, but also lowers the dreaded genetic risk factor for coronary disease, lipoprotein(a). Almonds also blunt abnormal spikes in blood sugar after eating and help prevent diabetes. They are tremendously filling and are great for sugar addicts who need to snack, since almonds take the edge off your sweet tooth.

  • Oat Bran & Fiber - Among the best soluble fibers is oat bran. Containing twice as much beta-glucan as oatmeal, oat bran is a versatile source of soluble fiber that can lower cholesterol by around 10-15% while also reducing blood sugar and providing roughage for bowel health. Beta-glucan is also available as a nutritional supplement. Starchy beans such as black, pinto, Spanish, red, and kidney beans provide significant soluble fiber that can lower LDL. Consuming one-half cup of these beans each day in one or more meals is an easy way to lower cholesterol. Note that fibers like the wheat fiber found in whole wheat bread and raisin bran cereals do nothing for your cholesterol.

  • Apples - High in pectin, another natural fiber that lowers cholesterol.

  • Fish Oil - Fish oil can also raise HDL and lower small LDL when taken in the form of a concentrated omega-3 preparation that provides at least 1400 mg of EPA and 900 mg of DHA per day. Fish oil has tremendous benefits beyond its lipid effects, including reduced mortality from heart attack, anti-inflammatory and mood-improving effects, and reduced cancer risk.

(*Note: Fish oil supplementation also reduces homocysteine levels!!!)

Supplementally, I’d recommend:

  • No Flush Niacin - 1g three times a day with meals

  • Curcumin with bioperin (increases bioavailability) - 1 capsule two times a day.

TShaw, in conjunction with the changes you’ve already made, adopting some of the things I recommended above should bring your numbers back into an acceptable range and reduce your cardiovascular risk.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. (grin)

TShaw:

Terry is right on (as usual). My Cholesterol started to climb a few years ago and I found great success by using Fish Oils and Oat Bran.

However, I would not get to excited about the total number of your Cholesterol. While it’s a bit high I think there is at least as much danger in taking one of the Statin drugs like Zocor or Lipitor. Have you heard about the side effects of these drugs?

The doctor told my father (in his 80’s) that he had high Cholesterol. It was 240, so he put him on one of the Statins. About thirty days later he started having muscle pains and spasms. Not only that, I saw a change in his mood. After doing some research I found that lowering cholesterol can cause depression! Before any of you try to argue that point, do some research as I did. Choesterol is a “brain fat” and has an important function in the brain.

I personally took him off the drugs and within thirty plus days he was feeling fine again. I helped him adjust his diet and brought his number down about 15 to 20 pts.

Obviously, you need to do what is best for you. However, I will never go on a statin drug in order to lower my choesterol. I would become a distance runner first…yuck. (Yes distance running will also bring down your total choesterol number)

Check out this site:

While the above is somewhat controversial I suspect that there is a great deal of truth to the good doctors thesis.

Whatever you decide I wish you the best of luck!

Zeb

A Cholesterol is supposed to rise as you age.

B Cholesterol readings can be higher in winter ( due to dehydration I believe ) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15111372

C Read ‘the Cholesterol Myth’ posted above.

D Make the diet improvements anyway. It’s important to have a good diet whether you have high cholesterol or not.

tshaw,

Another ratio is Triglcerides/HDL and with a Trig of 64 your probably good. Knowing all your numbers and having a hard copy printout is important. I try to tell everyone I know who get as physical to get a complete blood work up and get a copy. Even if all is well you want that baseline data. At this point getting your C-Reactive Protein and Fibrinogen would be in line. You’ll get a better overall picture of what’s going on. While your at it, get the PSA level. Baselines are key! I’m getting all mine done in March.

Well, the association between stress and cholesterol seems to be associative and not causal. As you mentioned, comfort foods come into play with stress. Fat + Carbs especially. And as we know…: ) I do remember a study with Medical students and their cholesterol levels jumping about 30% during finals. So sticking with the workouts, managing stress, taking the tips from Tampa-Terry, and giving it a good 2-3 months to take effect.

Good Luck!

Jim

Thanks for all the excellent responses!
Oat bran may be on the horizon, but I’ve gotta say that I’m actually glad that this situation made me turn for the first time to Oats: soak 1/4 cup through the night, 90 seconds in the microwave, throw on a few raisins, and not only is it not bad, but 2 hours or so later after a workout I don’t feel as hungry as I used to when my pre-workout meal was 210 calories of a 40-30-30 ratio health bar.
2-3 pieces of fruit during the day (thank heavens it’s currently clementine season).
Started to take in some flax seed oil (been watching my wife do this for a year because of HER high cholesterol, and thought nothing could get me to do it myself).
Reminding myself of the good salads on the menus at our favorite restaurants.
Small changes that I can painlessly incorporate into my lifestyle–so if their cumulative benefit helps, then I don’t see why I can’t keep these changes in place indefinitely.
I’m printing out this thread and considering all the good suggestions and advice.
In a month I’ll probably post an update after my next blood test (what a self-indulgent bastard, eh?)
Thanks to one and all!
Tim

I wanted to offer an update to all the people who offered me advice:
Columbus Day 2003–cholesterol 210
Columbus Day 2004–cholesterol 250
MLK Day 2005–cholesterol 212

Basically, with the few modifications I made, based on suggestions here, I dropped it 38 points in about 6 weeks.

Because these numbers might mean something to someone who might offer advice:
Triglycerides: 81
HDL: 47
LDL: 149
Cholesterol/HDL: 4.5 (“Average Risk”=4.97)
LDL/HDL Ratio: 3.2 (“Aveeage Risk”=3.55)

So it seems I’m just below average risk. I’ve read a lot (thanks for the links) about cholesterol and what we DON’T know about it. There’s clearly some correlation between cholesterol and certaindiseases, but not necessarily causation. I’d still like to bring up my HDL, so there’s supplementation I need to be more diligent about.

Again, thanks for all the input I got! (And I really am liking oats for breakfast, and just this week got my wife to start having them.)

Serious congrats, there, TShaw on reducing and improving your numbers! Even though it can be done, raising HDL isn’t as easy as lowering Total Cholesterol.

What specific changes did you implement 6 weeks ago? What supps are you taking at what dosage and how many times a day?

TT,
*The most consistent thing was 1/4 cup of steel-cut oats for breakfast.
*My wife and I go out to eat usually a couple time a week, and I made those into salad nights–usually a chicken caesar–instead of a steak or burger occasion.
*Leaned on chicken for protein more than red meat.
*I added 2-3 pieces of fruit/day to my diet, mostly clementines, but also bananas and an occasional apple. (I’m going to add more apples, on your suggestion and now that clementine season is ending.)
*Barlean’s Flax Oil capsules–3 capsules (3g) at bedtime.
*Metamucil capsules–at least 6/day (which is only one serving; the bottle says to have 3 servings/day; I’m going to remember take more)
*GNC’s cold-milled flax seeds; started putting a spoonful on my oats, but in the interests of following a smarter P+C/P+F diet–and inspired by the Velocity Diet–I instead added a spoonful to a serving of Grow!. I’m usually getting a Grow!+flax seed shake during the day, and one at bedtime.

I could be a lot more consistent with some of these. It wasn’t exactly a strict regimen. Knowing what I accomplished with just a few changes, I’m eager to see what happens when I get even more of my diet in line.

In case anyone here has been duped into taking Statin Drugs to lower their cholesterol, or knows anyone that has been suckered by their ignorant physician to do so, read this:

http://www.westonaprice.org/moderndiseases/statin.html

Fiber from legumes: there are many recipes out there that use lentil puree instead of fat. They actually taste excellent.

Minute Maid Premium Heart Healthy OJ: Two 8oz servings per day to be effective. Plant sterols (yeah, yeah, I don’t want to hear about soy…) added to this is what makes it work.

Saturated Fat: Remember that cholesterol intake isn’t the culprit in high cholesterol. Watch the saturated fatty acid intake closely. Sirloin, tenderloin, top round, and ground round are good red meat choices.

[quote]fsnmajor wrote:
Fiber from legumes: there are many recipes out there that use lentil puree instead of fat. They actually taste excellent.

Minute Maid Premium Heart Healthy OJ: Two 8oz servings per day to be effective. Plant sterols (yeah, yeah, I don’t want to hear about soy…) added to this is what makes it work.

Saturated Fat: Remember that cholesterol intake isn’t the culprit in high cholesterol. Watch the saturated fatty acid intake closely. Sirloin, tenderloin, top round, and ground round are good red meat choices.[/quote]

Actually, its hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated vegetable oils that you should watch. These and refined sugars and flours are the main dietetic causes for heart disease.

Genetics play a large part as well. My grandmother ate butter, beef, corned beef hash, whole milk, all kinds of food filled with saturated fat. Her total cholesterol was around 130 I think. Genetic shit happens.

TShaw:

Great job in bringing down the Cholesterol! The drug companies are not going to make any money from you, and I love it.

Two more things that I would like to offer up for consideration relative to heart disease:

The first is C reactive protein. This is produced by your liver when you have inflamation somewhere in your body. Cutting edge science states that inflamation is the cause of many diseases including heart diesease and many others:

http://aolsvc.health.webmd.aol.com/hw/health_guide_atoz/tu6309.asp

http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4648

The second major risk factor is something called “Homocysteine.” this is caused by having one particular amino acid elevated in your blood. This can be easily eradicated by taking a B vitamin, Folic acid, and some other things:

http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4677

Also, very recent research indicates that HDL is by far the most important reading relative to Cholesterol. The gold standard for men is a reading of 50 (or better) regarding HDL (you are close to that TShaw keep going man). One reason that researchers think that women live longer than men (Tampa Terry you lucky girl) is because they naturally have a higher HDL by at least 15 to 20 points.

HDL can absolutely be raised with Oat Bran and Fish Oils. I have seen this work over and over again. However you will never hear that from your doctor. By the way, there is one other thing that raises HDL and lowers the other two nasty culprits, C Reactive Protein and Homocysteine…EXERCISE!

Good Luck with all who are currently struggling with these problems. Know that I, and many others have faced these foes and defeated them without meds! Before you go off your meds, if you are currently on them, Begin your health regime first! Then inform your doctor and ease off the meds.

Zeb

As a single measurement, the waist size is more important. Measure your waist at the belly button. Measure your hip size at the max part of hips. If your waist size is bigger than your hips you got trouble.

Go anywhere, like the mall, and see what most men look like. I am almost in shock when I see an older man with no gut.

If you follow Dr. Lowery and Dr. Berardi and really do what they recommend you will be in excellent health.

[quote]Saturated Fat: Remember that cholesterol intake isn’t the culprit in high cholesterol. Watch the saturated fatty acid intake closely. Sirloin, tenderloin, top round, and ground round are good red meat choices.

Actually, its hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated vegetable oils that you should watch. These and refined sugars and flours are the main dietetic causes for heart disease.[/quote]

you notice that he was mentioning the effect of saturates on cholesterol levels. Can you show us the effects of hydrogenates and polyunsaturates on cholesterol level. Or more to the fact, the effect of polyunsaturates on risk of cardiovascular disease.