Feb 2019 and my annual visit to the doctor for the annual bloodletting. The results are in, my LDL cholesterol was 176. For those of you who don’t know, LDL cholesterol is often called bad cholesterol. The reason LDL is called bad cholesterol is that it can build up in the walls of your arteries and form plaque, putting you at risk of a serious cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, stroke, stent, or bypass surgery. So what to do?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is in your blood. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered “good” because this type carries bad cholesterol away from the arteries. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered “bad” because it can build up on the walls of the arteries, forming fatty deposits known as plaque. Over time, high levels of bad cholesterol can build up on the walls of your blood vessels. The bad cholesterol can create clogs and make it difficult for blood to flow through where your body needs it.
At 58, most people are persuaded to go the route of drugs like Lipitor or similar brand names that have been around a long time and from what I understand are fairly safe. Well, after careful consideration, I wanted to try the diet and lifestyle approach to see what would happen.
In April, I embarked on a regular routine of modified diet and exercise. I ran 30 minutes 5 or 6 days a week and I reduced my consumption of animal products. I wasn’t yet ready to completely give up the occasional juicy burger and fries but I cut way back. In July, we retested my cholesterol and this time the LDL had come down to 144. While the numbers were moving in the right direction, it still wasn’t enough. So I once again declined medication and continued on the path.
At the end of October, I saw two documentaries that caused me to pause and rethink my meat-eating ways. One was “Forks Over Knives” and the other was “the Game Changers”. Each told a similar story of how a plant-based diet was both healthful and balanced. I had to see for myself. By the way, there is no good time to go vegetarian, but quite possibly the period before the holidays isn’t the best. It was challenging but I was committed to seeing this experiment through to the end. After all, I had a follow-up visit in January to have my cholesterol retested and I like to achieve my goals.
So here is how I did it. I thought about getting a coach and then decided that I could create the same environment by using technology to help hold me accountable. Fortunately, I have a good amount of training in nutrition and I’m fairly disciplined once I set my mind to something. I also download the UnderArmor app “My Fitness Pal” to help me keep count of calories. So how am I doing?
As of January 27, 2020, my LDL is down to 124. I’ve lost 8 pounds. And I am now about 90% vegan. I still have an occasional egg which I will one day let go of. I think of this process as a journey. I’m letting go of bad habits at the rate and speed I can deal with and I’m building solid life-affirming habits one small step at a time. Each day I do 35 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of core strengthening, and 20 minutes of meditation. My goal is to be at an LDL of around 100 and 5 pounds lighter by the end of April.