Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Focus on Cholesterol

I am 27, which apparently is the age when you start getting your cholesterol levels checked, because I had mine checked for the first time this year.  I was a little nervous because 1) both my mom and my uncle have had high cholesterol and 2) I really like dairy products.

My results came back, and sure enough, my cholesterol is high.  LDL levels under 150 are considered "normal" (at least on my chart - it depends on your risk level), 151-199 is borderline, and 200+ is high.  My LDL level was 200 on the dot.

Ouch.

I am a 27-year-old, 120-pound ballerina.  I shouldn't have high cholesterol.  So I have organized a Plan of Attack to get a handle on this.

Step 1: Nuts.  I almost never eat nuts and they are supposed to help.  I am trying to eat a salad with slivered almonds, or some dried fruit and nuts, every day. (Also I created an awesome salad dressing the other day using only olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey).

Step 2: Fish.  I almost never eat fish because it's expensive.  I got some smoked salmon and made it last about a week and a half.  Tuna also contains omega-3 fatty acids, but because of possible traces of mercury I've been told you shouldn't eat it more than about once a week.  I'm going to aim for eating fish at least twice a week.

Step 3: Fruit.  Berries are a good source of soluble fiber, apparently.  My mom and I know someone who has a blueberry farm and she gave us tons of blueberries this summer.  I'm putting them in fat-free, plain Greek yogurt with a little honey mixed in, then putting that in the freezer.  It's delicious.  I've been eating blueberries every day for about a week and a half.  Once I run out of my local blueberries I'll probably cut back to every other day because blueberries are expensive.  Oh, and I keep my blueberries frozen.

Step 4: Dairy.  I really, really, really love dairy products.  I've already switched from butter to a trans-fat-free spread for everything except baking.  I've started reducing my cheese intake at lunch by replacing sliced cheese with crumbled feta, which (though high in sodium) is low in fat.  I also use less of it because it's so flavorful.  I also abandoned flavored yogurts during my sugar-free Lent this year.  Now I only buy non-fat plain Greek yogurt, so I feel like I'm doing well on that front.  The final aspect of dairy is milk - I'm used to drinking 2% and I don't think I can switch to skim just yet, so I'm going to start buying 1% and see how that goes.

Step 5: Grains.  I really like Honey Nut Cheerios, but it has 9 grams of sugar per serving compared to 1 gram in regular Cheerios.  I bought a box of the latter and we'll see how it goes.  I'll try to alternate between that and oatmeal for breakfast.

Step 7: Vegetables.  I haven't been eating as many potatoes as I used to, and those are a good source of soluble fiber.  So are peas, legumes, carrots and beans, which I do eat occasionally.  I'll try to eat at least one of these each day.

Step 8: Plant Sterols and stanols.  Okay, I have no idea what a sterol or a stanol is but they're really good for lowering cholesterol.  Some butter-substitute spreads have them, and some fruit juices have them too, but they occur naturally in small amounts in lots of plants.  I guess I will just have to look for "plant sterols" in the stuff I already buy.

Step 9: Mayonnaise.  I know it's nasty, but I love mayonnaise.  But it is just not good for you, and I haven't found a mayonnaise substitute that I am okay with yet.  So I'm not going to buy mayonnaise anymore . . . I may try to make some homemade mayo with olive oil to see if that tastes better than the commercial stuff.

So that's my plan.  Can I do it?  Will it work?  I would like to get my cholesterol under 150 by next year; if doing all this doesn't work I'll ask my doctor about additional treatments.

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