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Judi Freedman Headshot

What To Do About My High Cholesterol

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"You look good," said my cardiologist, Dr. P., as she entered the examining room for my annual check up today. "You haven't gained a pound since last year." (That was because I took off my shoes when I went on the scale for my weigh in. I also dressed light, knowing I would have to weigh in. The male nurse said he would deduct two pounds for my clothes. Likely he only took one pound off after he saw me put my shoes on the side of the scale before stepping on.)

The nurse took my blood pressure, too. "Fine," he said. "You're due for an EKG," he added as he rolled in the EKG machine. He put the stickers on my body and wired me up. "Fine," he said as he rolled out the machine and left to see his next patient.

"Well, what do you want to do about the Zetia?" said Dr. P. "You know there are some reports that it really isn't necessarily doing anything and there are still studies being done about the long-term side effects. "

Ever since I was diagnosed with high cholesterol I have been taking Zetia. It's been about four years now, shortly after going through menopause. I tried statin drugs, but they didn't agree with me, so I went on Zetia. Dr. P. had also prescribed daily fish oil capsules. My cholesterol seemed to be within a range of about 220 - 230, it never went back down to my pre-menopausal days when it was below 200. (Note that I only take Zetia. I do not take any other statin drug with Zetia, as most of the studies describe.)

What should I do? Hmm, hmm, hmm. Should I go off the Zetia and worry that my cholesterol will go up? Should I stay on the Zetia and worry about the potential long-term side effects, pending future studies? When Dr. P. put it in my hands, it was tough to make a decision.

"Why don't you go off the Zetia for two months, but keep taking your fish oil?" said Dr. P. "Then let's check your blood work and see where things stand." Whew, glad Dr. P. made the first move. I agree. "It sounds like a good plan," I said.

"I will try to do my best to watch my diet and increase my exercise the next few months, too," I promised.

Hmm, hmm, hmm... what should I eat to help lower my cholesterol? According to the Mayo Clinic, diet can play an important role in lowering cholesterol.

Here are the five foods the Mayo Clinic says can lower cholesterol and protect my heart:

1. Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods. (I eat high-fiber cereal for breakfast most mornings. Kashi Heart to Heart is my favorite -- so nutritious. Plus, I eat a lot of high-fiber fresh fruits and veggies each day. Check, check plus)

2. Fish and omega 3 fatty acids. (Already take my daily fish oil and I eat salmon and tuna often. Maybe I should add another serving of fish to my menu each week. Check, check.)

3. Walnuts, almonds and other nuts. (I will add a handful of almonds or walnuts to my salad. Or include an afternoon snack of unsalted nuts to my daily diet. Check minus, but soon to be check plus.)

4. Olive oil. (I always cook with olive oil. My boyfriend, L , and I like to dip our bread in olive oil when we go out to dinner at the Italian restaurant. Mayo says only about 2 tablespoons of oil a day to cook with or for dipping. Check, check, check -- maybe too much checking here -- a few less dips might be in order.)

5. Foods with added plant sterols or stanols. (Ooh, supposedly there are margarines and orange juice products that are now available that are fortified with these substances in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol. Will have to do some research on these foods. No checks here yet.)

I will need to add more cardio workouts to my schedule. And I will continue to read labels for fat content.

Ooh, guess I need to watch my dark chocolate consumption too. One less Hershey Kiss for me. Okay, two less Hershey Kisses for me. Guess I will have to ask L to give me a few extra real kisses to make up for the chocolate ones. It's all for a good cholesterol cause.

Cheers to good health!