Reader’s Question: My cholesterol has been high for a couple years now, and my doctor is recommending that I start taking a statin to protect my heart health. I’m trying to eat better and cut back on the fat. But my cholesterol numbers aren’t budging. What am I doing wrong?
Dr. Glenn Rothfeld: First of all, thanks to all of our Health e-Tips readers for the great questions submitted over the past few days.
I agree that it’s better to maintain healthy cholesterol through diet and lifestyle changes before resorting to prescription drugs. And that goes double for statins, because mounting evidence is showing that these drugs may cause diabetes… and that just the beginning of the damage these drugs can do.
Unfortunately, right now you’re in the same boat as a lot of people who are finding that low-fat diets aren’t what they’ve been made out to be. But if you’re serious about lowering your cholesterol, improving your heart health, giving your brain a boost, and maybe adding years to your life, here’s some advice that I’m guessing you’ll be happy to hear.
You need to eat more fat, not less.
It’s true that the trans-fats you’ll find in lots of junk, processed foods are synthetic, artery-clogging garbage. And if you see “trans-fats” or “partially hydrogenated oil” on a label, you should steer clear.
But getting the right kinds of natural fats and proteins can do wonders for your health. Fats store energy, help us maintain healthy skin and hair, and carry vitamins A, D, E and K throughout our bloodstream.
Animal protein like beef and poultry have vital nutrients that support heart health, and monounsaturated fats like olive oil may actually work to lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels in the bloodstream.
Plus, the unsaturated fats we find in plants and fish, especially cold water fish like salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids that make your blood less likely to clot and block an artery.
For better cholesterol control and optimal health, I’ve been recommending a Paleo Diet to my patients for years. The Paleo Diet (sometimes called the Caveman Diet) focuses on foods that our ancient ancestors would have eaten, like fresh meats, nuts, and fruits and vegetables. And it avoids grains, carbs and processed foods (a major source of unhealthy trans-fats).
The Paleo Diet has been found to lower triglyceride levels; improve blood sugar control; reduce high blood pressure; and even help you lose weight. And I see the results in my own practice all the time.
Finally, keep in mind that not all high cholesterol needs to be treated. Drug companies have been pushing for lower guidelines for years to — you guessed it — sell more statin drugs.Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing