Looking for help in lowering cholesterol

Someone near & dear to me was just diagnosed with extremely high cholesterol.

We’re hoping to avoid the drugs/medication route and try strictly changing diet and exercise patterns first.

I’ve googled it but what I’m looking for is a comprehensive list of what to eat and what not to eat, as he is a pretty picky eater (doesn’t like fruits or veggies).

Any Dopers know of such a list, or can you help us construct one?

I ran into this problem about 5 years ago and I’ve been on statins from the beginning. I really don’t worry about it. I think the media has blown the side effects out of proportion. All medications have side effects, even something as common as aspirin. If the cholesterol levels are as high as you state, then I’d suggest using the statins to get a handle on that, (they often provide dramatic results) and follow up w/ diet and exercise, which may result in lower doses, or even making the meds. unnecessary. As far as diet, start reading labels and avoid trans fats and saturated fats. Cut out eggs, and dairy products. Experiment w/ soy products and egg substitutes. A serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards. Fill up on colored veggies, red, yellow, green and variations thereof. Most docs have a suggested dietary list. Shellfish are also a no-no. Hope your loved one also keeps a close eye on blood pressure and is tested for diabetes.

He is only 31 and from what I have read so far today, cholesterol-lowering medications are not normally prescribed for men under 35.

He had applied for life insurance and the cholesterol problem came to light through their screening process (which also checked for diabetes and high b.p.)

There is so much conflicting information out there. A friend has had great success lowering his cholesterol through a version of Atkins (lots of proteins and “healthy” fats, low carbs) and exercise.

For very many people, high cholesterol is much less a matter of diet and much more the way their liver is programmed to manufacture cholesterol. In many cases, diet and weight loss (where needed) will not reduce cholesterol sufficiently to reduce the risk of premature heart disease and other complications.

The statins (crestor, lipitor etc) were originally designed for folks like this. Essentially, the drug tells the liver to “knock off making so much cholesterol”. Combined with proper diet and exercise, excellent results can be achieved, and I consider the statins to be good medicines for folks who truly do have a bad cholesterol profile. In my humble (and professional) opinion, the benefits far outweigh the risks in these sorts of cases.

Mind you, I’m talking folks who despite diet and exercise still have LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) over 200 or more, and HDL (good) cholesterol at a pathetic 29 or so. Or the guy with diabetes who’s had 2 heart attacks already, and with diet can only get his LDL down to 110. (LDL should be about 70 in these folks, there’s evidence that reducing it that low actually reverses coronary artery disease!)

Of course, in our society, everybody jumped on the statin bandwagon, and now guys take it so they don’t have to cut back on their fried lardball surprise for dinner.

But I really can’t say anything about your friend’s situation, as I don’t know his health history, his other risk factors, nor his total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, or triglyceride numbers.

I’ve been able to lower my cholesterol on an Atkins diet. It’s hard for my doctor to believe, but on a diet where fat accounts for 60% of my calories, my total cholesterol is 164, and my total cholesterol to HDL ratio is 2.5:1. Of course, olive oil is practically a beverage at my house, and I have incorporated a good deal of flax seed in my diet.

Flax seed is high in omega-3 precursers. Your body still has to change them to the omega-3’s, so some people may not get the benefit. In fact, I don’t know if I get any benefit, but my weight is good and my lipids are great, so I figure something is working.

Bear in mind my lipids were never terrible, I had numbers in the 210-220 range previously. I’d be surprised if diet could drag your cholesterol down more than 40 or 50 points, and genetics has a huge effect, but it should be possible to raise the HDL level enough to provide some benefit with dietary changes. Whether it’s enough to avoid statin drugs is up to your friend and his cardiologist.

This surprising item was on TV this week.

I got some very good advise on this subject last month. Here is the thread.

I especially read up on the link **KarlGauss ** provided.

I have been eating Oatmeal for Breakfast and mostly Salads without dressing for lunch and watching my Saturated fat intake. I have increased my exercise by a fair amount. I also eat Total with 1% milk on the weekends. I do not want to burn out on Oatmeal.
I have dropped 25 pounds in 6 weeks without starving. I keep Rice cakes & low calorie no fat Ice pops around as treats. I eat a lot of Hot Air Popcorn without butter or salt. I add a dozen Pepperidge Farm Goldfish to a full bowl of popcorn as a treat. I still have hamburgers, but only 94% lean or better and only grilled. I use a low fat cheese product to make a “Cheeseburger”.
My Suppers have shifted largely to chicken breast, grilled or broiled. Pasta works well.
Just read every food Item you picked up for saturated fat and if it has a high amount, do not eat it.

Wish your friend good luck,

Yes, yes, eggs have probably been unjustly maligned over the last 25 years or so.

When studies are actually undertaken to test the hypothesis that high egg consumption leads to undesirable effects on cholesterol levels, the results almost always show that eggs are, essentially, neutral (i.e. both LDL and HDL tend to rise, modestly, in parallel). But, to be fair, let me make explicit that I’m not aware of any evidence to support the notion that a high egg diet actually helps cholesterol levels (the link you provided was anecdotal, sponsored by the Egg Board, and depends on a testing procedure that is far from standardized).

Two caveats before you go out and buy three dozen eggs:

  1. If the eggs are prepared in saturated fat such as butter or bacon grease, or served with foods rich in saturated fat like bacon, most sausage, etc., the neutral effect of the egg content on your cholesterol will be made irrelevant by the effect of the saturated fats to raise your LDL-cholesterol levels.

  2. Some people, a minority mind you, do seem to be susceptible to an egg-induced rise in their LDL cholesterol. This is a result of them having an unusual genetic variant for one of the key proteins involved in fat metabolism (apoE for those interested). So, as a precaution, anyone who drastically increases the egg content of their diet should get their cholesterol checked some weeks after starting the egg rich diet. If it hasn’t gone up by then in response to the extra eggs in the diet, it never will.

Thanks all for your information and advice! A few more questions:

How does one know if it’s their liver or their diet?

Does exercise itself have a direct relationship to cholesterol levels (through improved cardiovascular fitness) or is does it provide more of a secondary benefit (through weight loss and/or stress reduction?)

His score was out of 10. I have no idea if that is a rating based on his total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, or triglyceride numbers, or if it’s a partial rating or …?

He’s having his blood work redone just in case, because the number was surprisingly high for a non-smoker his age, so hopefully he will be given more detailed results.

Are statins a short-term fix to get the readings down, or do they have to be taken on an ongoing (lifelong) basis? I’ve read some scary things about them and really don’t want him to take them unless absolutely necessary (his doctor is a little prescription-happy).

My mom just found out that she has really high cholesterol. The doc put her on Zocor and the South Beach Diet. Something about the way our bodies process carbohydrates and how that creates a cholesterol problem. It should work well for her since she also has very high blood pressure. She’s also begun walking 2 miles every other day. She hasn’t gone in for follow-up on numbers but is sure feeling better.

My sis was diagnosed with 250 for her cholesterol last summer. In six months with a 2 mile walk or run daily and using red rice yeast (?) she had it down to 180.