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.
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.