High Cholesterol Panic

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I recently went to the doctor for my first physical in a very long time. They did some basic blood work. At the time I wasn’t concerned at all. It had been 2 years since I had my last baby, and no one had mentioned during the pregnancy any bloodwork looking off. I have also lost about 35lbs since then putting my BMI at 22.7. When I got the phone call saying my cholesterol was high I was really shocked, disappointed, and honestly began to panic. The doctor just told me “Your cholesterol is high so start a low-fat diet and we will check again in 6 months.” Nothing else, that was it. So, I went onto my online med chart and found my actual results.

Triglycerides: 106 mg/dL
Cholesterol: 207 mg/dL
LDL Calculated: 130 mg/dL
HDL: 56 mg/dL
Non HDL Cholesterol: 151 mg/dL

But I’m not sure if these levels are “just kind of high we will just keep an eye on this” or if this is “You have a serious problem we need to get you on meds to control this”. It makes me really nervous because heart disease does run in my family. Various members have had heart attacks, strokes, and lots of cholesterol and blood pressure medication. I know genetics can play a big factor in needing medication. But I would really prefer to avoid that if it’s possible.

Does anyone have any advice on how I can naturally lower cholesterol? I’m trying to eat less of the high fat items I usually eat (Chips, Chocolate, extra butter popcorn, cookies, pizza, bacon, and breakfast sausage.) I’m also trying some of the tips I found on google (1% milk instead of whole, more green tea, ground flaxseed in fruit smoothies and overnight oats, olive oil instead of butter.) Any other tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Replies

  • IAmTheGlue
    IAmTheGlue Posts: 701 Member
    edited August 2022
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    I lowered my own cholesterol naturally with the methods you are describing. Good fats help remove the bad fats. Flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, old fashioned oats… I do take fish oil and I was eating fatty fish a couple times a week.

    My husband has not had such luck attempting to lower his cholesterol. Our doctor suggested the supplement Red Rice Yeast as one last option before going on a statin.
  • SuzySunshine99
    SuzySunshine99 Posts: 2,984 Member
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    Your numbers are just barely into the "high" range, so it's something that you should address, but it's not a reason to panic.

    Can you find out what your numbers were the last time you were tested, even if it was a few years ago? It would be helpful for you to know if this was a big increase, or if your numbers have always been on the higher side, and now they just nudged into that "high" range. If you had bloodwork done during your pregnancy, maybe it's available in your medical records?

    You are already at a healthy weight. A change in diet and exercise may help, but for some people, high cholesterol is genetic and there is not much you can do about it. My sister runs marathons, eats extremely healthy, is a normal weight, and her cholesterol is higher than yours. There's not much else she can do. Since it's been stable, and she's overall very healthy, she has avoided needing medication, at least for now.

    Do what you can to increase your exercise and the "good fats" in your diet, and see where you are when your doc tests you again in 6 months.
  • ccrdragon
    ccrdragon Posts: 3,366 Member
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    IAmTheGlue wrote: »
    I lowered my own cholesterol naturally with the methods you are describing. Good fats help remove the bad fats. Flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, old fashioned oats… I do take fish oil and I was eating fatty fish a couple times a week.

    My husband has not had such luck attempting to lower his cholesterol. Our doctor suggested the supplement Red Rice Yeast as one last option before going on a statin.

    This is a naturally occurring statin (just so you know).
  • ChickenKillerPuppy
    ChickenKillerPuppy Posts: 297 Member
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    I am so glad you asked this question! I was diagnosed with high cholesterol even though I was at goal and a healthy BMI. My LDL was 111 which is higher than yours was. The healthy range for LDL is between 0-99. My doctor wanted me to go on medication but I wanted to lower it naturally, and by changing my diet I was able to bring it back into the healthy range within 6 months.

    First, it's not all fats that are bad - you want to eat less SATURATED fats. I don't even look at the Total Fat on food, I just focus on making sure there is very low saturated fat. Foods with animal fats tend to have high saturated fats, so whether it's red meat or dairy or egg (yolks). Fats that are low in saturated fats but otherwise high in fat tend to be good fats - oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, etc. Fish high in omenga-3 is also a great source of good fat (salmon, tuna, etc.).

    The other component I pay attention to is the fiber content. I have made a concerted effort to eat much more fiber. Fiber is abundant in fruits and vegetables, but also things like lentils, beans, and other legumes.

    I swapped out some of my staples for vegan alternatives. I still eat Egg Beaters for breakfast but instead of pairing it with turkey sausage I pair it with vegan sausage. Instead of cheese as an after work snack I make a white bean dip that I eat with veggies. I have started eating lentils several times a week - often as my main course, because it is so high in both protein and fiber. I swapped out my various ice cream treats for fig newtons - I love that I can eat fig newtons for dessert!

    You can do this - I was really upset because I was already really "healthy" I thought, but high cholesterol does run in my family. Once I realized I had been focusing on calories but not on saturated fats and fibers, I made that adjustment and totally brought my cholesterol down, and I get to enjoy lots of high fiber carbs. Good luck!

  • ChickenKillerPuppy
    ChickenKillerPuppy Posts: 297 Member
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    Also - here is a link that explains what your Cholesterol levels mean. You can google and find others if you prefer:

    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11920-cholesterol-numbers-what-do-they-mean
  • IAmTheGlue
    IAmTheGlue Posts: 701 Member
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    ccrdragon wrote: »
    IAmTheGlue wrote: »
    I lowered my own cholesterol naturally with the methods you are describing. Good fats help remove the bad fats. Flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, old fashioned oats… I do take fish oil and I was eating fatty fish a couple times a week.

    My husband has not had such luck attempting to lower his cholesterol. Our doctor suggested the supplement Red Rice Yeast as one last option before going on a statin.

    This is a naturally occurring statin (just so you know).

    I had no idea. Thank you for letting me know! I’m going to pass that information on to him.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,874 Member
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    Your HDL is good. Your LDL is just borderline. LDL of 100-129 is near or above optimal. 130 - 159 is borderline high.
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 27,973 Member
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    IAmTheGlue wrote: »
    I lowered my own cholesterol naturally with the methods you are describing. Good fats help remove the bad fats. Flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, old fashioned oats… I do take fish oil and I was eating fatty fish a couple times a week.

    My husband has not had such luck attempting to lower his cholesterol. Our doctor suggested the supplement Red Rice Yeast as one last option before going on a statin.
    ccrdragon wrote: »
    This is a naturally occurring statin (just so you know).

    Reading between the lines in the Mayo Clinic article, the Red Rice Yeast that has the same active ingredient as in the prescription cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin (Altoprev) likely has the same side effects as well.

    I do take a lot of supplements, but in this case, if I were to take anything for high cholesterol, I'd take the prescription drug.

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-red-yeast-rice/art-20363074
  • neanderthin
    neanderthin Posts: 9,970 Member
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    The dietary guidelines have stated that cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern since 2015. Not that something changed in 2015 except acceptance of the science that's been available for decades, finally it sank in. Some Dr's didn't get the email I presume.
  • scarlett_k
    scarlett_k Posts: 812 Member
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    My total cholesterol always sits just above the ideal range but the ratio is good so apparently of no concern. I find taking omega 3, 6 and 9 helps but my husband was told to increase dietary fibre and exercise, if possible, to lower his. He doesn't follow any particular diet or low fat anything, but has chosen to moderate his cheese consumption a bit more than he used to.
  • nooshi713
    nooshi713 Posts: 4,877 Member
    edited September 2022
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    I’m not sure if you’re male or female. The most important thing for women is having a high HDL. For men, having a low LDL is more important.

    As many have mentioned, you can usually improve it some by increasing exercise, lowering saturated fat intake, increasing healthy fat intake, and by increasing fiber.

    Some of the best foods to add to help with cholesterol are fatty fish like salmon, fish oil, oatmeal, and walnuts. Avoid saturated fat. Don’t worry about dietary cholesterol as it won’t raise your cholesterol. So shrimp and eggs are fine.
  • VegjoyP
    VegjoyP Posts: 2,726 Member
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    I have a WFPB diet- lifestyle, with good fats, fiber, some whole grains- preferably sprouted, tempeh tofu seeds nuts tons of greens and vegetables and take Red Yeast Rice. I use an algae omega 3 with DHA. I have found this to be superbly affective
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 32,432 Member
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    kshama2001 wrote: »
    IAmTheGlue wrote: »
    I lowered my own cholesterol naturally with the methods you are describing. Good fats help remove the bad fats. Flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, old fashioned oats… I do take fish oil and I was eating fatty fish a couple times a week.

    My husband has not had such luck attempting to lower his cholesterol. Our doctor suggested the supplement Red Rice Yeast as one last option before going on a statin.
    ccrdragon wrote: »
    This is a naturally occurring statin (just so you know).

    Reading between the lines in the Mayo Clinic article, the Red Rice Yeast that has the same active ingredient as in the prescription cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin (Altoprev) likely has the same side effects as well.

    I do take a lot of supplements, but in this case, if I were to take anything for high cholesterol, I'd take the prescription drug.

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-red-yeast-rice/art-20363074

    Yes. And also, tests on various brands of red yeast rice have shown various levels of that active ingredient, from nearly none, on up. It's like dosage roulette.

    In the US, supplements that contain more than tiny amounts of the known active ingredient (monacolin K) have been ruled to be unapproved new drugs and cannot be sold legally as dietary supplements, but they're still being sold. On top of that, in tests, 4 of 11 brands contained a contaminant that can cause kidney damage, among other things, according to US NCCIH:

    https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/red-yeast-rice

  • neanderthin
    neanderthin Posts: 9,970 Member
    edited September 2022
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    This might interest a couple people on this site. Cheers
    Among individuals without any prior cardiovascular disease or diabetes, 72.1 percent had admission LDL levels less than 130 mg/dL, which is the current LDL cholesterol target for this population.

    The team also found that half of the patients with a history of heart disease had LDL cholesterol levels lower than 100 mg/dL, and 17.6 percent of patients had LDL levels below 70 mg/dL, which are guideline targets for LDL cholesterol in those at fair risk and at high risk for cardiovascular disease, respectively.


    https://uclahealth.org/news/most-heart-attack-patients-cholesterol-levels-did-not-indicate-cardiac-risk#:~:text=%22Almost%2075%20percent%20of%20heart%20attack%20patients%20fell,Medicine%20at%20UCLA%20and%20the%20study%27s%20principal%20investigator.



  • ACSL3
    ACSL3 Posts: 623 Member
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    dechowj wrote: »
    I recently went to the doctor for my first physical in a very long time. They did some basic blood work. At the time I wasn’t concerned at all. It had been 2 years since I had my last baby, and no one had mentioned during the pregnancy any bloodwork looking off. I have also lost about 35lbs since then putting my BMI at 22.7. When I got the phone call saying my cholesterol was high I was really shocked, disappointed, and honestly began to panic. The doctor just told me “Your cholesterol is high so start a low-fat diet and we will check again in 6 months.” Nothing else, that was it. So, I went onto my online med chart and found my actual results.

    Triglycerides: 106 mg/dL
    Cholesterol: 207 mg/dL
    LDL Calculated: 130 mg/dL
    HDL: 56 mg/dL
    Non HDL Cholesterol: 151 mg/dL

    But I’m not sure if these levels are “just kind of high we will just keep an eye on this” or if this is “You have a serious problem we need to get you on meds to control this”. It makes me really nervous because heart disease does run in my family. Various members have had heart attacks, strokes, and lots of cholesterol and blood pressure medication. I know genetics can play a big factor in needing medication. But I would really prefer to avoid that if it’s possible.

    Does anyone have any advice on how I can naturally lower cholesterol? I’m trying to eat less of the high fat items I usually eat (Chips, Chocolate, extra butter popcorn, cookies, pizza, bacon, and breakfast sausage.) I’m also trying some of the tips I found on google (1% milk instead of whole, more green tea, ground flaxseed in fruit smoothies and overnight oats, olive oil instead of butter.) Any other tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    There is a growing body of evidence that dietary fat (or lackthereof) does not correlate with blood cholesterol levels. Are you diabetic? Or have known cardiovascular (heart or vessel) disease? Do you have family history of cardiovascular concerns (diabetes, high bp, stroke/heart attack, etc)? If no, then I, personally, would not be concerned about your levels. Your HDL is above recommended, which is your 'good' cholesterol; and your total is boarderline (partially because your HDL is good).

    That said, if you want to lower your cholesterol, best thing is to eat soluble fiber - not the kind that helps you poop (vegetables, etc) but the kind that you absorb. The 3 foods highest in soluble fiber are - oatmeal, pears, and lentils. Though any legumes and fruits can be used instead of pears and lentils.
  • neanderthin
    neanderthin Posts: 9,970 Member
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    We want higher HDL and lower triglycerides, this is universally accepted.
    ACSL3 wrote: »
    dechowj wrote: »
    I recently went to the doctor for my first physical in a very long time. They did some basic blood work. At the time I wasn’t concerned at all. It had been 2 years since I had my last baby, and no one had mentioned during the pregnancy any bloodwork looking off. I have also lost about 35lbs since then putting my BMI at 22.7. When I got the phone call saying my cholesterol was high I was really shocked, disappointed, and honestly began to panic. The doctor just told me “Your cholesterol is high so start a low-fat diet and we will check again in 6 months.” Nothing else, that was it. So, I went onto my online med chart and found my actual results.

    Triglycerides: 106 mg/dL
    Cholesterol: 207 mg/dL
    LDL Calculated: 130 mg/dL
    HDL: 56 mg/dL
    Non HDL Cholesterol: 151 mg/dL

    But I’m not sure if these levels are “just kind of high we will just keep an eye on this” or if this is “You have a serious problem we need to get you on meds to control this”. It makes me really nervous because heart disease does run in my family. Various members have had heart attacks, strokes, and lots of cholesterol and blood pressure medication. I know genetics can play a big factor in needing medication. But I would really prefer to avoid that if it’s possible.

    Does anyone have any advice on how I can naturally lower cholesterol? I’m trying to eat less of the high fat items I usually eat (Chips, Chocolate, extra butter popcorn, cookies, pizza, bacon, and breakfast sausage.) I’m also trying some of the tips I found on google (1% milk instead of whole, more green tea, ground flaxseed in fruit smoothies and overnight oats, olive oil instead of butter.) Any other tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    There is a growing body of evidence that dietary fat (or lackthereof) does not correlate with blood cholesterol levels. Are you diabetic? Or have known cardiovascular (heart or vessel) disease? Do you have family history of cardiovascular concerns (diabetes, high bp, stroke/heart attack, etc)? If no, then I, personally, would not be concerned about your levels. Your HDL is above recommended, which is your 'good' cholesterol; and your total is boarderline (partially because your HDL is good).

    That said, if you want to lower your cholesterol, best thing is to eat soluble fiber - not the kind that helps you poop (vegetables, etc) but the kind that you absorb. The 3 foods highest in soluble fiber are - oatmeal, pears, and lentils. Though any legumes and fruits can be used instead of pears and lentils.

    I think you meant dietary cholesterol. Dietary fat does effect our blood cholesterol.
  • SnotfaceMcGee
    SnotfaceMcGee Posts: 4 Member
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    A few suggestions that may or not be useful - fibre recommendations are spot on (try to get lots of fibre, oats and oatmilk can be particularly useful for lowering LDL, but a general increase in legumes and other sources of fibre as well is optimal). Also, lowering intake of saturated fat can be useful (although some people find this contentious at the moment - I do not, but generally opt out of dietary debates ;-)). Walking is also excellent for heart health in general and cholesterol in particular.

    I have a long family history of heart disease and am quite overweight at the moment (but losing it slowly but surely), so I do tend to take my cholesterol levels quite seriously (total and LDL and HDL etc), but it's really more that a collection of risks can elevate your risk for heart disease in future (e.g. high cholesterol alone is a bit of a risk, but added to factors like family history + sedentary lifestyle + obesity = potential cause for alarm). You sound like you're taking appropriate action at the moment (replacing ultraprocessed foods with one's that are better for you). In addition, it might be a good idea to go and check cholesterol levels again in four-six months to see if the changes are having the results you'd expect,

    Best!
  • neanderthin
    neanderthin Posts: 9,970 Member
    edited September 2022
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    For critical thinkers only.

    If 75% of people admitted to hospitals that had a heart related event had LDL in what they consider acceptable levels of 130 or less and of those 50% had LDL levels under 100 with 17% under 70 also with only 2% of that population with accetable levels of HDL, then why are the other 25% with above acceptable levels for LDL not having heart related events? Any thoughts?
  • Hollis300
    Hollis300 Posts: 59 Member
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    For critical thinkers only.

    If 75% of people admitted to hospitals that had a heart related event had LDL in what they consider acceptable levels of 130 or less and of those 50% had LDL levels under 100 with 17% under 70 also with only 2% of that population with accetable levels of HDL, then why are the other 25% with above acceptable levels for LDL not having heart related events? Any thoughts?

    I can't answer your question, only throwing another factor into the picture. My neighbor had very high cholesterol. However, her cholesterol pieces were large and didn't "stick" in her blood vessels, so she didn't take statins and had no heart events -- and she lived into her 90s. The size/type of cholesterol is important.