Years ago my patients would come in to my pharmacy and ask about how to reduce their TOTAL cholesterol. We were only concerned with the total number, and we generally tried to keep it under 200. But over time we began to realize that simply lowering the total cholesterol number wasn’t good enough. Special attention needed to be paid to what is called LDL cholesterol (AKA the ‘bad’ cholesterol).
As a pharmacist, I encourage all of my patients to use prescription medications only when the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Specifically, when it comes to lowering LDL cholesterol I encourage people to adopt a dietary plan that is aimed at lowering LDL without medications. If this strategy does not work, then we will discuss the prescription medication options available to reach their goal.
I recommend my pharmacy customers take a ‘3 step’ approach to lowering their LDL cholesterol. Generally speaking most of us will have to do some of all 3 in order to achieve a significant reduction in our LDL. So pick something from each of these steps to begin lowering your LDL today.
STEP ONE: Consider eliminating or significantly reducing from your diet those food items which tend to be high in saturated fats. These food items include things like:
- Fatty meats like pork, ham and beef
- Dairy products (like milk and cheese) unless they are specifically designated as ‘low fat’ varieties
- Most fried foods, butter, and creamy sauces and dressings
STEP TWO: Consider adding to your diet foods containing soluble fiber that will actually work to lower you LDL for you! Foods that contain soluble fiber (meaning that they actually get absorbed, rather than just staying in your intestinal tract) include:
- Bean products like kidney beans or chickpeas (love these on salad!!)
- Many fruits, but especially pears and apples
- Powdered products available at the pharmacy like Metamucil (mix with water or juice before drinking)
STEP THREE: Finally, begin to focus on accomplishing a modest degree of weight loss. To accomplish this consider:
- Include 15-30 minutes of exercise in your daily routine
- Increase the amount of water you drink to 8 full glasses daily
- Join a group, like Weight Watchers, to add some accountability to your efforts to lose weight
If you follow these steps you should see some improvement in your LDL cholesterol reading. If not, then it may be time to talk to your doctor about the prescription medications that are available.