There's no one-size-fits-all strategy for combating high cholesterol, and these folks are the proof. Here, find out how they're keeping their levels in check and their arteries clear, while taming their risk of heart disease and other health problems. Maybe one of their methods will work for you!
1. "Get the
help you need!'
Elizabeth Wyse's doctor wasn't concerned when her cholesterol was high. The reason, he told her, was that her triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) were low. So she didn't worry about it either. But four years later, when another physician decided it was time for a retest, the now-61-year-old from Ozark, AL, was shocked: Elizabeth immediately decided to make the lifestyle changes that could help her treatment along. And three months later, her cholesterol had dropped more than 50 points. Here's how she did it:
Make it public. "I love to journal," Elizabeth states. And keeping a food journal when she started modifying her food habits helped chart the change. But what's really helped keep her on track is having a health blog. "When you write things down and share them with others, you better do it!" she says. In fact, a Dominican University of California study found writing down your goals ups your chances of success by 33%!
Allow for the little lapses. Nobody's perfect, but Elizabeth doesn't let minor missteps turn into a total downfall. "Hot dogs are not healthy," she says. "So if I'm going to have one, I savor each and every bite, then I have a salad for dinner." And she admits she struggles with exercise, but instead of beating herself up about not getting to the gym, she finds other ways to stay active that work for her. "If I'm going to the store," she explains, "I walk around the entire store three times before getting a cart."
2. "Make a change for good!'
Brooklyn, NY, native Neal Quinn wasn't bothered when he first found out his cholesterol levels were high. But years later, when an angiogram revealed a 50% blockage in one artery, the then 60-year-old took notice. His father had passed away from a heart attack at age 39, so he knew the consequences. Neal went on cholesterol meds immediately after the diagnosis six years ago, but he knows that making these other changes has helped him keep his total cholesterol at 130:
Give groceries a "reading test." At 6 feet 3 inches and 215 pounds, Neal wasn't exactly heavy, but he knew his diet needed work and it wouldn't hurt to lose a few pounds. His strategy: Reading nutrition labels. "If I don't like the label, it doesn't come into my house," he says. That way, he's not tempted to cheat,
and it's easier to stick to his healthy eating goals. In fact, that strategy has helped him lose 40 pounds!
Make some smart swaps. "I was a cake-aholic," Neal admits. But now he satisfies his sweet tooth without sending his cholesterol skyrocketing. "I have two pieces of dark chocolate every night," he says. And that's a good choice for his heart, since Harvard researchers found eating a small square of dark chocolate daily helps lower blood pressure, decrease LDL cholesterol and boost HDL.
Make it a family affair. A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows the support of loved ones makes success more likely when it comes to healthy lifestyle changes. And for Neal, tackling it with his wife at his side has made a dif?ference. "Of course, my wife's been
eating this way for 15 years," he says. But doing it together keeps his willpower strong.
3. "Find out all
When Colleen Peterson's doctor told her she had elevated cholesterol levels, she wasn't surprised. "I thought, I eat bacon, eggs and cheese every day'of course it's high," she says. But since she was young, 26 at the time, and in great shape, Colleen ignored the diagnosis'until two years later, when, at the insistence of another doctor, she had her levels retested. The results? While her "bad" LDL cholesterol was just slightly elevated, her "good" HDL cholesterol was nearly triple the ideal!'and that's actually a problem, since such high concentrations could eventually damage arteries and lead to a heart attack. Now 29, her numbers are nearing normal, thanks to a treatment plan that includes these steps:
Explore your options.
Colleen was aware that lifestyle habits can play a big role in managing cholesterol levels, but she was puzzled by one thing: She was already super-fit! "I exercise more than anyone I know," Colleen says. "But my numbers showed I was skinny on the outside and fat on the inside." With fitness already a big part of her daily routine, that left nutrition as the main weapon in her cholesterol-busting arsenal.
Try, then try again.
At first, Colleen tried a vegan diet. Because it contains no animal products, she figured it was a perfect choice. Unfortunately, it made her feel bloated and weighed down. Yet instead of giving up, she switched to a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fresh veggies, fish and healthy fats like olive oil'and it stuck. "I wanted to give everything a shot," she says, "until I found something that worked for me."
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