4 years ago, I went to a wellness exam. The exam consisted of a finger prick which tested my cholesterol and blood sugar. After I received the results, I was shocked to learn that my “bad cholesterol” was close to 300! I was in my mid-30s, at a healthy weight, and otherwise fit, and yet my cholesterol was very high. I didn’t want to have a heart attack by the time I reached 40.
I began looking at what I had been doing to contribute to this. I realized that I would eat a lot of fast-food. I wasn’t overweight so I didn’t think it was that big of deal. A couple years prior, my life was extremely busy. I was working full-time, attending college full-time, married with 4 children and serving in a church.
So to accommodate my busy lifestyle, I frequently picked up a quick meal for breakfast, lunch and occasional dinners. I would often get a bacon and egg taco for breakfast, a McDouble® for lunch and then get Little Caesar’s Pizza for dinner. I didn’t go over my necessary calories, but the food I was eating was junk.
I decided that I needed to make a change. So I started researching what I needed to do to lower my bad cholesterol and raise my good cholesterol. I did learn that some people are more genetically prone to having higher cholesterol levels. I found this to be true for me because my dad’s cholesterol can run high. Even though it can be genetic, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do anything to change it.
I read that eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, cholesterol levels can be improved. I was exercising about once a week, which admittedly, wasn’t the desired amount; but due to the circumstances of my life, I didn’t think I could fit any more exercise into my week. So I focused on the diet.
I began restricting how often I got fast-food. Normally, eating out does cost more; however I was buying one or two items off the dollar menus. So I was spending no more than $2-$3 per meal. I looked for healthier alternatives to fast-food. Instead of eating out for 5-8 meals I week, I cut it back to 2-3 times a week.
I began buying oatmeal and fresh fruit for smoothies for breakfast, mixed salads with grilled chicken for lunch and salmon for dinner. When I did eat out, I would try to find better options that limited fried foods, high carbs and high cholesterol.
I did slightly increase my exercise by taking 2-10 minute walk breaks during my work day. I figured this would add some physical activity and allow me to take a break from my desk.
I managed to stick with the healthier eating. When my annual wellness exam came the following year, I lowered all my “bad cholesterol” to the normal range and my “good cholesterol” was still on the low side, but only by a couple points. This proved that changing my diet worked! I was very happy that changing my diet improved my health.
While I’m not always consistent; I actually now crave healthier foods and I don’t get completely off track. In the past 3 wellness checks, my cholesterol has not reached the levels that it had before.