Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lowering Your Cholesterol Through Diet, Statins or Exercise?

The doctor called with my blood test results, and as I suspected, my cholesterol is higher than it should be.  I have a big battle with that, even though I am careful what I eat, as I can’t take statin drugs.
So I have really been trying to find out as much as I can about it.

Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?
“Wright saw, the drugs can be life-saving in patients who already have suffered heart attacks, somewhat reducing the chances of a recurrence that could lead to an early death.

But Wright had a surprise when he looked at the data for the majority of patients, like Winn, who don't have heart disease. He found no benefit in people over the age of 65, no matter how much their cholesterol declines, and no benefit in women of any age. He did see a small reduction in the number of heart attacks for middle-aged men taking statins in clinical trials.  But even for these men, there was no overall reduction in total deaths or illnesses requiring hospitalization—despite big reductions in "bad" cholesterol.

"Most people are taking something with no chance of benefit and a risk of harm," says Wright. Based on the evidence, and the fact that Winn didn't actually have angina, Wright changed his mind about treating him with statins—and Winn, too, was persuaded. "Because there's no apparent benefit," he says, "I don't take them anymore." "From:

“Cracking the Cholesterol Myth:
There's no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in the blood. None. And we've known that all along.  That has been confirmed in study after study after study.”

“The truth is, we've always had reason to question the idea that cholesterol is an agent of disease,” says Taubes. “Indeed, what the Framingham researchers meant in 1977 when they described LDL cholesterol as a ''marginal risk factor'' is that a large proportion of people who suffer heart attacks have relatively low LDL cholesterol.

“So how did we come to believe strongly that LDL cholesterol is so bad for us?” he asks. “It was partly due to the observation that eating saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol, and we've assumed that saturated fat is bad for us. This logic is circular, though: saturated fat is bad because it raises LDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol is bad because it is the thing that saturated fat raises.” Yet, he points out, “in clinical trials, researchers have been unable to generate compelling evidence that saturated fat in the diet causes heart disease. “      From:

The first time a doctor tells you that your cholesterol levels are high, it's often with a vague reference to lowering them through diet. What does that mean, exactly?

“Heart-Healthy Choices: The Good Foods Lowering your cholesterol levels is not just about what to avoid. There are also good, positive choices you can make — cholesterol-fighting foods that can help you reduce your risk of heart disease. Here’s the scoop on soluble fiber, heart-healthy fats, and plant sterols.
Soluble Fiber
Wouldn't it be great if there were something that could grab onto cholesterol and escort it right through your digestive system and out of your body? Well, there is! Soluble fiber does just that and may reduce the intestinal absorption of cholesterol.
Research has shown that eating an additional five to ten grams of soluble fiber a day can reduce LDL cholesterol by three to five percent. If you eat a few foods rich in soluble fiber every day, you’ll get at least five grams. It is a small improvement, but every percentage point counts!
Some of the best soluble-fiber-rich foods include oatmeal, barley, lentils, brussel sprouts, peas, beans (kidney, lima, black, navy, pinto), apples, blackberries, pears, raisins, oranges, grapefruit, dates, figs, prunes, apricots, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.”    The rest of the article:

More at:

Mayo Clinic advises:
To reduce your cholesterol, focus instead on lifestyle changes:
  • Lose excess weight.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • ____________________
The Obesity Epidemic

"The whole low-fat movement coincided with a huge spike in food processing and those who process and manufacture food products for a living have one goal -- getting people to eat more of their products. That's easy to do -- just engineer combinations of sugar and a bit of fat, which worked really well with the whole "low-fat" philosophy.

As long as it didn't have too much fat, you could eat it, right?

Meanwhile, fat -- the one macronutrient that keeps you full and satisfied -- was lacking from most of what we were eating. Sugar, the one element that keeps cravings going, was plentiful. Portion sizes in general collectively took a shot of steroids, as the whole country decided that super sizing was its birthright.

I have put on weight this winter as it has been too cold to work outside.  So, as I get more exercise in the Spring, I hope my cholesterol levels will go down then.

I don’t care which diets claim you don’t have to exercise to lose weight, it is obvious that a moving body is going to be in better shape than a couch/computer potato.

It has always mystified me why the folks in Britain don’t die of high cholesterol.  All my deceased family members died between 90 and 107 years of age.   Except those by accidents, of course.
As I said on February 15th:  ”In England, they cook their eggs in bacon grease, then they crisp fry their bread in it too, and the fried eggs go on top.  The tomatoes are fried in the bacon grease, too.
I don’t know why they don’t have big cholesterol problems there!”.   

Then it dawned on me….they walk to the shops, they walk to the subway, they walk to the bus stop.  As a whole, Europeans get a lot more exercise than we do here in the USA.  We jump in the car to go places. 
I must start parking at the end of the parking lot.

“The incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries is lower than in the United States. Death rates are lower, too. But this may not be entirely due to the diet. Lifestyle factors (such as more physical activity and extended social support systems) may also play a part.” From:

So I had better do as Felix did, and “keep on walking”, starting today!


Gypsy said...

My total cholesterol level has always been high (HDL is good though); I refuse to take any kind of drug for it, but I've been taking a fish oil capsule three times a day for several years. In November I had a cholesterol test and found out my total # had gone down about 70 points. I don't avoid most things I want to eat, although I do eat a lot less of things i love such as hot dogs, bacon, sausage, etc. I won't give up half & half in my coffee and real butter though.

KarenInTheWoods and Steveio said...

Thanks Penny... you always find interesting tidbits for your blog! Steveio is watching his cholesterol now by diet, and we are avoiding the need for statins if at all possible. Will check out some of the links you gave too. Thanks!