Health and science reporter Marlene Cimons joined WTOP’s Mark Lewis to discuss which diets can help lower your cholesterol.
Is there an effective way to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke without taking medication?
A disciplined diet and regular exercise could do the trick but what works best?
Health and science reporter Marlene Cimons joined WTOP’s Mark Lewis to talk about the best and effective ways to lower your cholesterol.
Read and listen to their conversation below.
Health and science reporter Marlene Cimons on which diets can help lower your cholesterol
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Marlene Cimons: Statins, let me say one thing about statins, they are very effective and they are very safe for most people. And the way they work is they block an enzyme that the liver uses to make cholesterol. And of course, taking a pill is a lot easier than following a diet, but they do have a downside. I’ve experienced that myself.
I was taking them for a couple of years and had a really great response in terms of my cholesterol, but I was having chronic, unrelenting muscle aches and didn’t make the connection because I work out a lot.
So I thought maybe it was a result of exercise. But then, I had some routine blood work and the blood work showed that I’d had a spike in my liver enzymes, which was kind of surprising since I don’t [otherwise] have liver disease. So my doctor said he thought it might be the statin and that I should hold off on taking them for a little while and we would retest. So I stopped.
The muscle aches disappeared, and my liver enzymes returned to normal. So now, I don’t want to go back on them. So I’m trying to take it up a notch diet-wise.
Mark Lewis: What foods, Marlene, work best if you’re trying to focus on dieting here? What can really help you?
Marlene Cimons: Stay away from processed foods. Unprocessed foods, plant-based, foods that are low in saturated fat or those that have healthy fat like nuts and avocados which, contrary to popular belief, do not contribute to weight gain. So-called sticky fiber foods like oats, peas, legumes, lentils, beans, also nonfat yogurt, whole grains, brown rice, substitute soy for meat.
Avoid fatty meats, processed deli meats, hot dogs, hamburgers, and use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or tropical oils. All of that will help lower your cholesterol.
And experts recommend the portfolio diet, which you can find online. But there are other diets that also can help like Mediterranean diet, which is very popular — just got high marks recently — and the DASH diet, which is targeted for high blood pressure.
So anytime you switch to these more healthful food products, you not only help lower your cholesterol, but they can also help with weight control and diabetes prevention and other conditions. And they can be very effective unless your genes are working against you, which can be a problem for some people.