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Fight High Cholesterol without Medication

(Note: I chose a picture of people running because it was something I was most unlikely to do. I think I rather go sky diving or bungee jumping although it scares the shit out of me, than to run. But I have overcome this dread for the sake of a healthier me.)

I always had a nagging feeling that sooner or later I will have to fight high cholesterol because of the way I eat and my sedentary lifestyle. In fact, despite this nagging fear at the back of my head, I was getting quite cocky that each year my test results show I am in the pink of health with very healthy cholesterol levels.

Oh well. Life is fair. One fine day, I happened to visited a TCM doctor in Indonesia for a persistent night cough and he told me (by taking my pulse) that I should watch my cholesterol. Part of me panicked. But just 6 months ago my health report turned out fine! When he successfully treated my night cough after 2 days into his medication (that many doctors costing a lot of $$$ have failed the last 4 years), I got even more worried. But I still dragged my feet to arrange for a medical check up. You should never do that.

Anyway couple of months later, I finally went for my check up and lo and behold, my cholesterol level – LDL was borderline high. This guy is amazing! And it is not just me! Ed actually has high cholesterol in his recent report!

We have been eating at home and well, I thought we were eating quite well. We were quite careful with our diet… or so we thought. On top of that, I have started to exercise and Ed has always been fit, running 5km regularly… So we sat there thinking hard… Then we came to this conclusion – PRAWN BROTH??! This seems the only possibility as we have been making prawn broth with prawn shells and head maybe twice a month and each pot. We are not like having it on a daily basis, but one small pot every 2 weeks in risottos, pastas, noodle soups, etc. So it seems that this is taking it’s toll? (Note: for frequent prawn mee eaters, especially if you love those reddish rich prawn broth soups…)

On top of that, we have been consuming cheeses and full fat milk pretty regularly.

Now, I read some articles that prawns are low in fat, so their cholesterol is fine. I guess prawns if eating just the body, after removing the intestines, etc is perfectly healthy. But when you use the shell and heads to boil a concentrated broth…. I think that is where it is quite lethal.

So to test if this is the culprit and bring down cholesterol levels, we decided to:

  1. Not have any more prawn broth at all.
  2. Switch from full fat milk to low fat milk (tastes bad) so we switched back to full fat but red intake by taking some reduced sugar soybean milk or home made soybean milk or store bought with less sugar.
  3. Increase our intake of fish to introduce more HDL (good cholesterol as it will help to lower the bad ones)
  4. Taking more avocadoes also rich in HDL (we already take a lot of other vegetables)
  5. Take more wholemeal bread and reduce white bread as the fibre in wholemeal helps reduce cholesterol.
  6. Exercise regularly (we exercise, but may not always be regular)
  7. Started taking Cholesterol supplements like Krill Oil again high in HDL
  8. Take more oats, vegetables and fruits.

This went on for about 6 months and we did a test again. This time, Ed’s cholesterol level went down to borderline and mine went down to acceptable levels. Phew! (It’s been a year now, and I am happy to report we both have quite healthy levels.)

We have learned our lesson and not get carried away with prawn broth. Actually the thing about LDL is that is is no longer the key factor to indicate if a person is high in cholesterol. However, it seems the doctors are still singing a mix of tunes, so it is quite confusing. And the information online is also a mix.

First doctor Ed went to said it is bad and asked if Ed wanted to be on medication. He refused as he wanted to change his lifestyle first and see the results. So I also went to my doctor and got myself tested. Doctor looked at my borderline and just said take care. Then when we went back for re-test, this time we both went to different doctors from before, my doctor said high LDL is an issue if triglyceride level is high too. Then Ed’s doctor said the same too. So we were like… Ok, so it was a false alarm?

Now that the high cholesterol possibility is finally near, I am definitely more mindful. After all, I am not that young anymore. Honestly, we rather play safe and just watch our diet and lifestyle. So be it whether it is a big deal or not to have high LDL, we are just going to enjoy life, but still keep this in mind.

Go for your medical check-ups regularly. Prevention is the best cure and early detection is the next best thing. We are both underweight and on the slim side so not quite likely that triglyceride build up is high unless we have so much fats clogging our blood vessels and surrounding our organs (which is another concern I have since I learned that there is such a thing since Primary school, but again, never cared enough to watch my diet or exercise) Now that I am older and after this (false) alarm, I realised it is not so distant anymore, so why take the risk? Research only can tell you this much at a point in time and after more studies, it may change.

I understand there are many reasons why one can have high cholesterol. It can be diet or lifestyle of hereditary. Hereditary maybe hardest to control, but it is not impossible. We suspect Ed’s problem is hereditary as both his parents have high cholesterol. If all else fails, then I guess there is cholesterol medication though I advocate keeping that as last option. You still gotta eat you know. But if you really have to do that, well, so be it. Life goes on. Many people are on cholesterol medication for many years and are still living well.

You can read more about cholesterol online. I am no doctor, so I will not endorse any particular sites.

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