Cholesterol Wake Up Call

Yesterday, I popped online to check the wellness screening results from when I last donated blood.

After reviewing my blood type and future eligibility information, I clicked over to the cholesterol tab…and my jaw nearly hit the floor.

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My cholesterol was 275?

How was that possible? How can a vegetarian have such high cholesterol? I don’t eat butter and rarely eat cheese or eggs, I get plenty of fiber and I exercise fairly regularly – so where’s the problem? How on earth is my cholesterol 75 full points higher than it should be?

While high cholesterol can be genetic, I am looking to naturally reduce my count through nutrition before turning to a prescription.

What I’m Going to do about my High Cholesterol

Because of my new piercing, I can’t donate blood again until six months to a year have passed. I do, however, plan to schedule a cholesterol screening within two months. Since cholesterol levels can be significantly lowered within six weeks, waiting eight weeks from my high cholesterol discovery should give my body adequate time to respond to the changes I plan to implement.

  • Reduce my consumption of animal products.  Shortly after becoming vegetarian, I decided to try a vegan diet. I saw a marked difference in how I felt, but although I knew I felt better with fewer animal foods in my system, I reintroduced cheese and eggs into my diet because I felt like I was missing out on things I desperately wanted to eat. For the next eight weeks, I’d like to reduce my dairy and egg consumption to a maximum of one serving a day.
  • Get more omega-3’s. These can help increase the LDL’s (good fats) and for vegetarians, omega-3’s can be found in flax seeds and walnuts. While I typically place flax seeds in my smoothies, I’ll be bumping up the quantity to at least 2 daily servings, or, if necessary, investing in an omega-3 supplement.
  • Increase my fiber. It seems like a no-brainer – especially considering my current whole foods-based diet, but I plan to strive for more soluble and insoluble fiber in the form of oatmeal, beans, millet, wheatberries, etc…rather than the more processed grains like toast, tortillas and pasta. That’s not to say I won’t enjoy them – they just won’t be primary components of my diet.

oatmeal fiber

  • Skip the afternoon snack. You know the drill – 2 pm rolls around, quarters magically appear in your hand, you wind up with butterfingers or Sunchips from the vending machine. That’s gotta stop. If necessary, I’ll bring unprocessed snacks from home to ward off the 2 p.m. munchies: apples, which are high in pectin, a cholesterol-reducing compound, or carrots, for example.
  • Hit the gym 5 times a week. This one may be the hardest for me. I love the gym and I love exercising – don’t get me wrong…but making it consistent has been a major struggle for the last several months. I’ve been averaging 2-3 times a week, which is absolutely better than nothing – but in the interest of dropping my cholesterol, I’ll have to increase the frequency of my workouts.

In light of the new changes, I made a breakfast that included plenty of fiber (at least two grams of insoluble fiber), omega-3s, fruit and a small serving of healthy fats.

oatmeal parfait

As I cooked 1/4 cup of steel cut oats, I dropped into the blender:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 scoop chocolate soy protein powder

cholesterol lowering breakfast

It came out far more voluminous than I’d expected! I’d planned to drizzle the topping over the oats…but instead, I drowned the oats in the smoothie!

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Topped the whole shebang with some berries, cinnamon and flax seed for a tasty cholesterol-lowering breakfast!

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I’m hoping to see a drop of at least 15 to 20 points in my cholesterol by the time of my next test. Let’s see how this goes!

Have you ever been blindsided by the results of a medical test?

How’s your cholesterol? Ever had to lower it? When was the last time you got it checked?


9 Comments on “Cholesterol Wake Up Call”

  1. Gen says:

    Good for you for taking action!!! I haven’t had any cholesterol problems, but my dad does and so do a lot of people from his side of the family, so its definitely something that I’ll be careful to watch!

  2. For some people high cholesterol is more genetic than anything, but it’s great that you are re-evaluating your diet and making changes. Saturated fat can also contribute to high cholesterol. I don’t think you’re eating too much of that from what you described here, and cutting back on the eggs and milk may help. Good luck!

  3. Sarah says:

    You know, I don’t think I ever got mine checked. (I don’t give blood because my blood pressure is chronically “too low” to do it.) Now I’m curious!

  4. Rachel says:

    I’ve never gotten my cholesterol checked, or any wide array of medical tests. I feel like I should, but part of me is definitely a bit afraid – there are a number of problems that run in my family.

    Also, good for you taking matters into your own hands. It bothers me how many people these days just blindly turn to medication without really assessing their situation. 🙂

  5. dev says:

    yum! those oats look AWESOME
    great idea 🙂 I need to try that!

    Awe! Best of luck to you on lowering your cholesterol! I bet that was hard to see! you can do this! xoxo!

  6. woww it must have been pretty difficult finding out the results~! But great job and way to go for being proactive in your health! 😀 I’m always trying the best I can to help my family and loved ones be healthier even in the small things–just little by little.

  7. I had mine tested last year and it was really good, but I want to make sure that it stays that way, so I need to eat more fiber, drink more water and exercise more.

  8. Michelle says:

    Did you eat before you gave blood? If you had ANYTHING to eat 8 hours prior to giving blood (especially anything with fat, any kind of fat), it can seriously screw up your results. Based on your age & diet, even if you DID have a family history of high cholesterol, I seriously doubt that your total cholesterol is 275. Of course, it never hurts to try and get back on track if you feel like you’ve gotten off the right road in the health department. You could still wait 6-8 weeks to get a recheck, but if you wanted to ease your mind, go get a fasting lipid profile done 🙂

    -Your friendly nurse practitioner reader

    • Faith says:

      Michelle, thank you so much – that’s extremely reassuring! I had eaten that day and gave blood at 5 pm (after a day’s worth of food) – so perhaps that had a bit to do with it! I am looking into a full profile screening (and one that’s done at a center, not a bloodmobile – heh!)…I definitely appreciate your educated advice and reassurance!

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