More exercise, more soluble fiber
I’ve been posting about my husband’s high cholesterol since it became quite high about a year ago. Last December his total cholesterol was 297, with an LDL (low-density lipoprotein) of 219 and an HDL (high-density lipoprotein) of 65.
Now I’m happy to report that after 9 months of pretty simple lifestyle changes his total cholesterol is down to 240. His LDL (the bad one) is way down at 153, and his HDL (the good one) is way up at 77!
Although he has no other risk factors for heart disease—he’s not overweight, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t have high blood pressure, and he doesn’t have a family history of heart disease—in December his doctor wanted him to start taking statins.
Neither my husband nor I are fans of statins. He bargained with his doctor for more time, six to nine months to make lifestyle changes and see if he could get his LDL under 180.
We joined a local gym and started working with a physical trainer. My husband revived an interest in high jumping and competed with the local Masters Track and Field. He and a friend hiked at least once a week all summer. He played beach volleyball with another group of friends.
We added more soluble fiber to our diets, including a bowl of overnight oatmeal every morning. We ate more apples, another good source of soluble fiber. My husband really upped his soluble fiber intake with a glass of Metamucil every day (yuck).
[Only insoluble fiber helps lower cholesterol. Read my previous post on this topic for more information.]
But does it matter?
While my husband feels understandably proud of his accomplishment, we both wonder just how important his cholesterol level really is.
As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, it appears a high LDL level might not be as bad as we think.
And even when his LDL was 219, his 10-year risk of having a heart attack was very low, less than 5%. Taking a statin would have decreased that risk by about 0.5%. Not worth the side effects and cost, in our opinion.
I’m sure there are patients for whom a statin is a good choice. But a healthy man with no significant risk factors other than a higher-than-average LDL? Doctors are pretty divided on this topic. Many think statins are prescribed too frequently in low-risk patients, and believe prescribing lifestyle changes is a healthier option.
I will continue to follow this debate with interest.
In the meantime, I’m not only thrilled my husband won’t be pressed into taking a statin, but that he is feeling healthier and more energetic thanks to his new diet and exercise regime.
And that is more important to us than a number on a lab slip.