When I received the results of my annual blood test, I stood in amazement reading the results. I've battled high cholesterol on and off for YEARS. The composite number seemed to linger year after year between 210 and 250. When 189 jumped off the page, I thought, How? What have I been doing differently?
Here are my 100% very unscientific conclusions!
1 INCREASED WATER INTAKE
My daughter Elaine is my hero! She consumes a gallon of water a day! She uses this amazing and motivating, say wha?! Giotto water bottle (on my list now)!
I'm only up to half a gallon myself - but I hope to catch her soon! And listen, this is coming from someone who really used to dislike the taste of water! Except for during restaurant visits and consumption during tennis, it was all I could do to drink the stuff.
But as with most good habits, the more often you make that CHOICE, the easier it becomes.
And I started small to develop my love for H2O. Just one 16 oz. bottle daily. When I mastered that consistently, I went to 32 ounces. Here's my Contigo bottle that I LOVE. I'm doing 2 of these daily now for my half gallon, and I'm about to increase to 3 daily.
My kiddos bought me this water filter to help with the taste!
2 ADDED SWEAT-INDUCED EXERCISE
My cholesterol drop may also be due to increased cardio-vascular exercise and strength training.
So I used to exercise daily by walking 2 miles a day. I still do this, but as I age, well, this just isn't enough. I added in a small Stamina trampoline similar to the one below to help me get those 10K steps in daily, but still, I knew that my body was not being pushed hard. Unfortunately, my cholesterol levels wouldn't budge.
I bought a portable Exercycle like the one below that did increase my heart rate considerably. I actually put my Fitbit on my ankle to try to snag the step equivalents! I used this bike especially during the colder, wet and rainy winter months when outdoor walking wasn't so appealing.
I also began playing summer tennis twice a week during the summer and pickle-ball during the winter months.
But the real change I made in my life? Exercise that made me sweat! And here's a shout out to a small group of women who exercise twice weekly with weights, jump ropes, and bars as well as who execute movements like Burpees, presses, squats, planks...you get the picture. I'd never done a box step in my life before joining this group. After 45 minutes such an intense workout, I'm sweating all right.
Finally, I discovered the missing link. I needed to incorporate exertion and more strenuous challenges into my regime each week. This got my heart pumping and the toxins just flowing out my skin!
3 REDUCED SUGAR INTAKE
CONFESSION: I used to keep pounds of M&Ms in my car - I ate them like crazy! Milk chocolate was my go-to stress food. I'd love to know how many Spanish compositions I've graded in my lifetime while popping one delicious candy in my mouth after another. [Trust me! At the time, this was the only way I could get through that kind of a task.]
And then menopause hit, not to mention the threat of adult onset type 2 diabetes.
I knew I HAD to make changes in my diet. What I could eat in my 20s, 30s, and 40s was not longer anywhere close to what I could (or should!) eat in my 50s. I needed a mindset shift. Plus after menopause, I've heard that the average weight gain is about 3 pounds a year. No thanks! (Check out my ebook below!)
So I determined to make healthier food choices, and I started with ditching the SUGAR. Food has offered me a TON of comfort over the years, and I needed to dive into the spiritual side of this as well asking God to help me unravel my bad habits of using food for distraction and comfort.
Again, I started SLOWLY! If you would have told me that I would ever switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate, I would have said you were nuts! But now...I not only "do" dark chocolate, I actually enjoy it!
I raided my cupboards for junk and threw it out. I decided I would only buy treats for my college-aged son living at home in small quantities (and only those items that really didn't tempt me). I reduced the sugar-laced creamer in my coffee by nearly 70%. I've developed a taste for stevia, and for cravings, I keep dried fruit on hand to enjoy.
Some of my sweet treats include Kroger Low Cow ice cream bars. They come in chocolate, peanut butter, and salted caramel. They are lower in sugar and are positively scrumptious!
4 THINK SMART FATS & SPICES
It seems incumbent to include this. I really don't eat a lot of meat in general - I think I'm what's called a FLEXITARIAN! (I usually am more vegetarian/vegan oriented, but Imma not gonna give up a juicy hamburger every now and again).
I've actually avoided animal fats, fried food, high fat food items for quite a while, but still the cholesterol stayed too high. And then I fell in love with olive oil. I'm gonna say that this addition to my diet has indeed helped boost my good HDL cholesterol for sure!
I spritz raw organic olive oil using a sprayer like the one below. And I only buy organic, extra-virgin olive oil -- usually from Trader Joe's--they have great prices! I included the link below - but do NOT buy on Amazon unless you cannot get to a TJ store! It's so much cheaper from the store itself.
I read once that it is best to buy olive oil in TIN cans as clear glass can increase light exposure causing the oil to become a bit rancid or less flavorful. I simply recycle my tin can, pouring in the new oil as needed.
Good brain food also includes healthy nuts and seeds. I've upped my flax intake, include a few Brazilian nuts (my daughter says these help to lower cholesterol). I add turmeric to my salads with a hefty shake of ground black pepper for a duet of cholesterol fighting umpah!
5 THE CLENCHER? POPCORN!!!
I am addicted to popcorn! And curious thing! I've been consuming virtually DAILY for about 7 months now--this grain has really given me a boost! I think this is the secret "ingredient" to my lower cholesterol level! Could there really be a connection? I've no idea...but man all that fiber!
Yes, I love all sorts of whole grains! Especially OATS--proven to lower cholesterol! And psyllium husk - I add a teaspoon of non-flavored powder to my coffee each morning! (I usually buy the off brand from Walmart, but I'm considering the one I linked below because it's organic). But popcorn has taken a new position in my diet, coming in at the top of the list!
I air pop with this amazing microwave popper AND I top with generous spritzing of olive oil plus a teeny bit of salt and nutritional yeast. I usually buy my yeast at Trader Joe's, but sometimes at Kroger, Whole Foods, or Good Foods Co-op in Lexington.
You should know that my popcorn (as we say in Kentucky usually about our chicken) is finger lickin' good! The Vitamin B punch in the nutritional yeast has really increased my brain activity and energy levels! Man, I feel GOOD!
I've learned that water and certain fats and even traces of Vitamin B's can cross that blood brain barrier. So maybe this is what's happening to increase my positive outlook and mood.
Plus, of course, I'm in the BRAIN BUSINESS, as you know! I host a podcast called Choose 2 Think and my blog called Start with a Grateful Heart (both designed to help us focus on our thoughts, attitudes, mindsets, and how to walk with a renewed mind).
I'm sure that working hard to keep my emotional life healthy has certainly reduced stress and increased joy. Some say that STRESS has a negative effect on cholesterol as well. Truly, we are stewards of these temples that God has given us and His Spirit resides within...so with this kind of internal support, goodness, we really can achieve OPTIMAL HEALTH IN ALL AREAS OF OUR LIVES, emotionally, spiritually, and physically!
I do wanna make sure that my corn is organic. Although I cannot find this brand on Amazon, I just ordered a 25 lb bag of organic/non-GMO popcorn because I've also learned that corn is often highly cultivated with pesticides. Yuck. You might be able to find less expensive versions elsewhere, but I've linked at least one worth trying below.
Also, I am working on a major MASTER blend of super food toppings for my corn...more on this later!
So there you have it! This is how I believe I have lowered my cholesterol! I cannot wait for next year's blood work!
I really do think that just implementing one of these suggestions might really make a difference in your life! I am quite positive it did in mine. And I'm not turning back!
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