Medication vs a Healthy Lifestyle

Cholesterol reducing drugs are very popular these days.  There are known side effects, but in general, they do what they are supposed to do; lower cholesterol.  The million-dollar question is, should a person take them, or can they control their cholesterol by living a healthier lifestyle?

Well, I guess I could be a one-person case study (small sample size I know, but it never stops me from sharing my story so it can help others make better decisions regarding their situation).  My cholesterol was off the charts bad, and I didn’t know it until I turned 50.  Sure, I led a relatively healthy lifestyle, which to be totally honest, probably saved me from the great beyond.  I exercised 3 to 4 days a week, ate reasonably well, and I don’t smoke.  All good stuff.  Still the genetic cholesterol was wreaking having inside my arteries.

When I turned 50 I had a physical examination with a doctor I hadn’t seen in years, and he told me I had high cholesterol.  I don’t recall the HDL and the LDL numbers at that time (of course that is vitally important), but the total cholesterol number was 269.  He recommended I go on a statin, but I knew better (sure I did).  I thought I could affect the cholesterol numbers in a positive way by doing more of the good things, like staying active, and eating less of the bad stuff, like fried foods, etc. 

It worked to some degree.  I reduced my total cholesterol down to 229, but I have come to find out, my LDL, which is the bad cholesterol, was near 200, which is really, well, awful, and my HDL, the good cholesterol, was too low at 36, which is also, well, awful.  The perfect storm. 

So, in my case, I have found that lifestyle changes would not help me entirely.  I was a candidate for statin medication and fought the notion.  I am much more educated on the subject these days after my run in with heart disease, and that is what is critical in terms of making better decisions than I did in the past; information and rational thinking.

Moral of the story, know your numbers and know what they mean.  Honestly assess your lifestyle and determine if you can commit to truly living heart healthy.  Also, if possible, know how long you have lived with high cholesterol.  If it has been years, as in my case, you may need more help than just changing your diet and exercise habits, as damage may already have been done.

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