Like many people, I never worried too much about my cholesterol levels. I considered myself young and healthy in my 40s. But when a routine physical revealed concerningly high LDL and triglycerides, I realized I needed to take it seriously to avoid heart disease down the road.
When my doctor put me on statins and recommended major diet changes, it felt drastic. But learning more about the direct connection between high cholesterol and heart disease motivated me to take control of my health.
I'm sharing my experience battling high cholesterol in hopes it will inspire others at risk to take preventive steps before it's too late.
Having total cholesterol over 200 mg/dL or LDL over 100 mg/dL is considered elevated and increases your chances of:
Atherosclerosis - Plaque buildup in arteries that can lead to dangerous blockages. This worsens over time if high cholesterol goes untreated.
Heart attack - Plaque rupture in an artery can block blood flow to part of the heart, damaging tissues. Heart attacks require emergency care.
Stroke - Blocked blood flow to the brain from plaque cuts off oxygen, killing brain cells. Strokes can be fatal or leave permanent disability.
Heart failure - When the heart becomes too weak to adequately pump blood due to damage from blockages. It leads to fatigue, breathing issues, and fluid retention.
Arrhythmias - Abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation. While not immediately life-threatening, they increase the risk of stroke and heart failure.
High cholesterol doesn't just mean you'll take medication someday. It substantially raises your risk of life-altering and fatal heart conditions if left unmanaged.
After my diagnosis, I took three key steps to lower my 200+ total and 130 LDL cholesterol levels:
Dietary changes - I cut way back on fatty red meat, butter, cheese, fried foods, sugar, and refined carbs in favor of heart-healthy fats like olive oil, fish, avocado, nuts, and whole grains.
Exercise - I started doing cardio and strength training 4-5 times a week to help burn calories and strengthen my heart. Exercise is vitally important.
Medication - My doctor prescribed rosuvastatin to lower my LDL. Medication combined with lifestyle allowed me to reach my goal ranges.
Within 6 months, I brought my total cholesterol down to 170 and LDL to 80, well within the recommended ranges. But high cholesterol requires constant vigilance through eating healthy, staying active, and taking meds. I'll continue managing it to avoid heart disease.
Here are the main points I want others to learn from my high cholesterol journey:
High cholesterol has no obvious symptoms but quietly damages your arteries and heart over time. Get tested regularly!
Make therapeutic lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, weight loss to optimize your cholesterol and overall health.
Work closely with your doctor to determine if cholesterol medication is also needed based on your risk factors.
Stick closely to treatment plans. High cholesterol is manageable, but requires diligence.
Don't wait for a heart attack, stroke, or other serious event before taking high cholesterol seriously. Prevention is key.
I'm so grateful I caught this health issue early. Committing to heart-healthy habits now will hopefully prevent me from becoming a heart disease statistic later in life. Our health futures are largely in our hands.