So Your Doctor Told You…You Have High Cholesterol

“Your cholesterol numbers are high, you need to go on this drug to bring them down.”

Thanks doc. However, there may be ways that you can bring your numbers down before having to opt for a statin, or other cholesterol fighting drug.

Before I go on, I do want to say that there are SOME cases in which drugs should be used, and it is up to your doctor to let you know if this is your only option – however, I feel it’s only fair that everyone gets a chance to lower their numbers without drugs.

First, what are the normal ranges for your cholesterol?

Based off of this chart, your LDL should be under 130, ideally under 100, and your HDL should be above 45, ideally above 65.

While these numbers provide a general guideline, more recently, it has been found that the actual particle size plays a much bigger role. As stated in The Great Cholesterol Myth,

Although LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol, the fact is that it comes in several shapes and sizes, as does HDL cholesterol, the so-called “good” kind.  These different subtypes of cholesterol behave very differently.  Seen under a microscope, some LDL particles are big, fluffy, and harmless.  Some are small, dense, and “angry,” and much more likely to become oxidized, slipping through  the cells that line the walls of arteries and beginning the inflammatory cascade that leads to heart disease.

The particle size test should be available at your doctor, or they should know where you can get the test done. What it comes down to is your ratio of large particle LDL to small particle. If your LDL is mostly large, fluffy, you might be alright.

Now, back to the original LDL is bad argument. This is a good starting point because if your overall LDL is high, you likely have elevated levels of small particle, and thus have more of the ApoB carrier protein – which is actually what causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Cholesterol is slimy and slippery – think of oil in water. It’s not the actual cholesterol that damages your body – it’s the increase in carrier proteins (apoB) that ram into your artery walls and cause log jams in your Panama Canals of life.

All that being said, in most cases, if you have high LDL, and low HDL, it would be helpful to fix those.

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Trainer Mike Says:

  1. Start exercising regularly. You don’t need to become a fitness junkie, or marathon runner, but by just increasing exercise to 30 minutes per day, you can lower your LDL numbers by 10-15 points. However, it is also crucial that your 30 minutes of exercise is slightly challenging. You don’t need to feel nauseous after your 30 minutes, but you should have worked up a little sweat and increased heart rate. Even if it’s 30 minutes of walking, it should be a brisk walk, not a casual stroll.
  2. You can split up your exercise. If your goal is to get 30-60 minutes per day, it doesn’t have to come in one session. Studies have shown that even breaking it up into 4, 15 minute sessions, will have the same effect of a straight 60 minute session.
  3. Hit the weights. Seems that I am always pushing weights on everyone, because I am. Weight training the large muscle groups can have so many positive effects on the body. Same as you walks, you need to be slightly challenging your muscles with the weights you choose. Always remember, perfect form is key – but using 3 pound weights on your squats is probably not challenging you body. Studies have shown than weight training 3 times per week can especially help increase your HDL (“good”) by 3-8 points.                                  
  4. Don’t forget overall heart health. While we are focussing on cholesterol here, it is important to not forget WHY you are trying to lower cholesterol – for heart health. Allowing your body to relax, and de-stress will help with overall heart health. Try meditation, yoga, or any form of exercise that helps you relax.


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Dietitian Mike Says:

  1. Cut out the Trans Fats. Everyone can agree that trans fats are bad. End of story. Trans fats are found in processed fatty foods, dessert, fried foods, etc. Trans fats are a double whammy on your cholesterol numbers. They raise LDL, and lower your HDL. Start avoiding them right now and you can see some good changes in your cholesterol numbers.
  2. Increase your fiber intake. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also found in such foods as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes.Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal (2/3 cups dry) provides 6 grams of fiber. If you add fruit (1/2 cup berries are great) you’ll add about 4 more grams of fiber. To mix it up a little, try steel-cut oatmeal or cold cereal made with oatmeal or oat bran.
  3. Replace your saturated fats with monounsaturated fats. Saturated fat is not inherently bad when it comes to cholesterol, the negative effects is found in the dosage. Try replacing some of your saturated fats (animal fats, butter) with some heart health monounsaturated fats (olive oil, macadamia nuts, avocados, almonds). As with all fats, you need to still watch the total quantity, as all fats are higher in calories, and if you are eating too many calories, you will gain weight.
  4. Eat a caloric deficit to lose weight.  Fat loss can greatly improve your cholesterol numbers. By losing even just 5-10% of your body weight, you can lower your bad cholesterol numbers pretty significantly. Read more here to lower your body fat.

I hope these basic tips can help you lower your cholesterol, and get you started on the path to health! As always, let me know if you have any questions, concerns or comments!

*This article is not to replace the advice of your doctor or provide specific treatment for issues. Always consult your physician for personal recommendations regarding your health*

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Stay healthy my friends,

Published by Mike Gorski

Registered Dietitian and Fitness Coach OWNER OF MG FIT LIFE LLC