When I was younger, I ate what I wanted, played sports because I liked them and never thought about my weight. Of course, that was when I was naturally thin, active and “eating like a bird,” according to my mom. Today, things are different. As an older adult, I have to watch my weight and plan physical activities. And, I now know that a build-up of cholesterol on the walls of my arteries can lead to heart problems or even strokes down the road.
My doctor told me that there are two kinds of cholesterol. I happen to have a particularly high level of HDL, the “good” kind of cholesterol (or Happy cholesterol, as I call it, to distinguish it from LDL, the “bad” kind). But even so, my total levels were a little high, so I took steps to reduce my blood cholesterol level.
The first step for me after becoming aware of the problem was to make up my mind to change my behavior. Like anything else, if you are not committed, you will likely fail in your attempts. It is far easier to commit to a program to lower your weight, because you can see that you are overweight if you look in the mirror. Cholesterol, on the other hand, can only be detected by a blood test.
I had already made changes in my diet for healthy eating and to lose weight. To lower my cholesterol, I started eating more food with a high soluble fiber content, like oatmeal, apples and kidney beans. Between meals, instead of reaching for a sugary snack, I kept almonds and pistachio nuts handy. I had already cut down on the amount of red meat in my diet, and now I substituted salmon for meat a couple of times a week. Of course, to keep my weight down I cut way back on bacon and salami, and I started buying skim milk and reduced fat dairy products.
It turns out that I actually like the foods I am eating now, and while I do crave treats like ice cream sometimes, I can buy low fat ice cream or else indulge in the real deal once in a while.
To be honest, I did not really change my exercise program much, because playing golf once or twice a week and going to the gym a few times in between is about as much as I will do. And I gave up smoking years ago.
So far, my cholesterol is lower and I feel pretty good. Knowing that I am taking charge of my health for prevention makes me feel in control, and the results of my regular blood tests show that the changes are effective.