I’m sorry for the spam…I just need to occupy my mind with something other than grief, so I’m going to offer up how I managed to drop 50 points off my overall cholesterol AND LDL (the bad cholesterol). I get to occupy my mind, and, at the same time, toss out something that could be reasonably useful to others. This is a lengthy post, so I’ll tack in a divider that you can click on to read the whole thing.
(I would like to offer a quick memnotic, first, for remembering which is the good cholesterol and which is the bad. You want high to be high and you want low to be low. High density lipoprotein, the “good” cholesterol, is “high,” so you want that “high.” Low density lipoprotein, is “low,” so you want that “low.”)
Among the utter chaos that ensued today, my doctor called in the middle of it all to tell me how excited he was about my cholesterol results. About six months ago or so, I got it all tested, and my cholesterol was at a whopping 250, and my LDL was at 178. My doctor said my cholesterol needed to be below 200, and my LDL needed to be at or below 130. He was alarmed enough to want to stick me on Lipitor (statin) right then and there, but I told him to go pound sand – lemme research this crap before I just start gobbling pills. Well, after a bit of research, what I implemented was enough to bring my cholesterol down to 200 on the dot, and my LDL to 128. A 50 point drop in six months, or so, without any prescription medication.
He said, and I quote, “whatever the hell it is you’re doing, keep doing it!” A small, silver lining to the arguably worst day of my entire life.
[WARNING: Talk to your doctor first, before doing ANYTHING on this page. Remember, I’m still just some random idiot on the Internet.]
That said, here’s what I did.
I stopped all fast food consumption, and I stopped drinking all sodas (which was easier for me, because I’m a hardcore coffee drinker to begin with).
I reduced my coffee intake from about a pot a day, to one or two cups a day (I still used half-and-half and “Sugar In The Raw”). Decaf when I got desperate for a third. I swapped out coffee for tea and honey in the evenings to help take the edge off. Lemonade, tea, water (and the occasional scotch) replaced my evening coffees.
I focused primarily on breakfasts. What I would do, 4 to 5 days out of the week, is concoct my own cholesterol-fighting breakfast formula: take two packets of any Quaker instant oatmeal (I used plain or the maple and brown sugar ones). Heat it by convection, add 2 heaping tablespoons of wheat germ (for the phytosterols), 2 heaping tablespoons of flax seeds, a sliced banana, and a dash of almond milk to soften it up. It goes down like cement, looks like bug gruel, but is surprisingly palatable considering what’s in it. The remaining days, I would cook a normal breakfast of 3 eggs, 3 bacon, a dash of cheese on the eggs, along with toast, jammed and buttered. (use jam, not jelly; remember, you want phytochemicals and phytosterols, and jelly defeats the purpose – deal with the seeds)
For lunch I would alternate mostly between sandwiches and salads. For sandwiches, I would still use deli grade salami and provalone. Since I hate salad, I figured out a neat trick to make them easier to choke down: olives. Get some romaine, throw in a small hand full of green and black olives and use a dash of olive oil salad dressing. It still sucks, because, it’s salad, but the olives sure do help.
Dinners were easy: pasta and tomato sauce, with a dash of cheese. I basically tossed out all meat and used tuna fish for everything else instead. For snacks, cottage cheese, canned pineapple, fresh apples and oranges, and lots of almonds, walnuts and cashews. Cliff bars worked with a dash of discretion too (nuts are good sources of phytosterols). And, of course, Jolly Ranchers (they last, and you can’t gobble them down like bags of M&M’s) and Gummy Bears. If you can stand it, mix the cottage cheese and pineapple together. The cottage cheese takes the acidity out of the pineapple, and the sugar in the pineapple turns the cottage cheese into a yummy sweet treat. Fills you up hardcore too, lots of bulk, and you’ll get the “correct” feeling of being full.
I would still grab the occasional hamburger, and indulge in my dirty, secret pleasure: Totino’s pizza rolls. Nom. It wasn’t all hell, I was just mindful to not eat stuff that was engineered in a lab as much as possible.
I took 2 and only 2 vitamin supplements: red yeast rice, and plant phytosterols. The active molecule in Lipitor is the exact same molecule found naturally in red yeast rice. Except, I can’t eat red yeast rice here in America – it’s exclusively found in Asia. So, there’s one pill. Plant based phytosterols, on the other hand, are extremely hard to get naturally in the diet in the desired quantity I wanted. So there’s the other pill. Unfortunately, I could only find it at the time packaged in a multivitamin – which made me unhappy – as I try to obtain all my nutrition from diet alone (don’t underestimate what saliva does in the digestion process). It meant that I had to keep an eye on my vitamin E. I was getting it in the multivitamin (boo!) but it’s also in the wheat germ. So I would ping-pong them back in forth so I wouldn’t overdose on vitamin E.
I also started walking. Whether I felt like it or not. This was actually the hardest part…the more I didn’t want to walk, the more I knew I needed to. I would go outside, during the day and just walk around, letting the sun hit my flesh (vitamin D). I would walk to a park and draw or write, or I would walk to a coffee shop and reward myself with a tasty coffee for walking. That’s all the exercise I did…nothing strenuous, no weight lifting, no marathons, just ambling around outside. (I’m in terrible shape, and clearly need to work on this more)
That’s essentially all I did. I was just trying some stuff with about a “three-quarter” effort, instead of going 100% full burners, because I didn’t want to suffer for months and months, only to find out my cholesterol was hereditary and my suffering was for naught. I just wanted to see if I could put an encouraging little dent in my cholesterol, and if so, THEN turn all thrusters.
But it turned out, my three-quarter attempt dramatically dropped my cholesterol to manageable levels. I wonder what would have happened if I HAD gone all out? I’m very proud of myself with this accomplishment – for the first time ever, I can say that with a straight face.
Anyway, that’s my cholesterol story, brought to you by the insurmountable grief brought on by the loss of one of my closest friends. Remember, talk to your doctor first before doing anything, and for God’s sake, don’t EVER stop taking medication your doctor has ordered you to take, until they say so.
ADDENDUM 1: strange enough, it turns out that, for the most part, you’re better off eating other raw fruits and vegetables other than tomatoes. Tomatoes are packed with phytochemicals, and I hate them. But, tomatoes are like the only exception to the rule when it comes to “processed foods,” for when tomatoes are concentrated into a paste, or ketchup, or something of that nature like pasta sauce, so too, are the concentration of those little goodies.
ADDENDUM 2: try and jam in as many fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables as your palate and colon can take. I would at times, just snack on random fruits, vegetables, and assorted nuts (lightly sea-salted) and unsalted almonds mixed with dried cranberries. Fortunately, peanuts are a good source of phytosterols and they’re easy to eat. Unfortunately, they’re fattening, so be careful with them.
ADDENDUM 3: do whatever you can within reason to avoid anything chemically treated. Eating out is fine, like getting an occasional oven baked lasagna or something, but anything fast food was off-limits (within reason). For example, the buns used in fast-food hamburgers? Yeah, they’re basically spun sugar, or, cotton candy. That’s why your teeth’ll hurt when you eat them. Not fit for human consumption! Also, the chemicals in fast food trick the receptors in your stomach into telling your brain you’ve eaten less than what you actually have eaten. Ever notice you need to eat two fast food burgers, but if you make one yourself on the grill at home, you’re stuffed? Yeah, that.
ADDENDUM 4: read up on what alcohol does with cholesterol. The chemistry is very complicated and still being researched, but from what I gather, a teensie-weensie dash of some kind of alcohol once in a while, like scotch, or wine, can actually help your cholesterol. In itsy-bitsy amounts, it shakes up the liver and good cholesterol pops out.
ADDENDUM 5: researchers believe that when we were hunters and gatherers, human beings would consume upwards to 2.5 GRAMS of plant based phytosterols a day (fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables, etc…), but, in the modern era, the average American diet can only provide around 150 to 300 MILLIgrams of the substance. Maybe that’s why everyone needs Lipitor nowadays?