Nearly a year ago, I learned that I had high cholesterol.
With a total cholesterol reading of 235, the results of my blood test from November 2016 indicated that I was at a higher risk for health problems including heart disease and stroke.
Health update: Going vegan helped lower my cholesterol
Although I am relatively thin, the news did not surprise me. My mom and grandma take medicine for high cholesterol.
Rather than immediately going on a cholesterol-lowering drug like Lipitor, I committed to a strict diet and exercise routine, which helped me lose more than 25 pounds.
You can see that my face started to thin out after just a few months of hard work:
In addition to working out at least five times per week, I followed the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines. I reduced my intake of fatty foods and opted for lean meats and low-fat dairy.
By June, my weight was down to 166 pounds and my body mass index was 23.9 — within the normal range.
Feeling pretty good about my progress, I had my cholesterol checked again in July 2017. Unfortunately, my total cholesterol had only dropped four points, from 235 to 231 mg/dL.
Generally speaking, doctors like to see total cholesterol below 200.
July 2017 cholesterol test results
- Total cholesterol: 231
- HDL (good): 48
- LDL (bad): 158
- Triglycerides: 126
At that point, I wondered if I should just give up on the diet and exercise modifications and ask for a statin drug, but I knew that I would have to be on that medication for life.
Instead, I adopted a vegan diet to see if it would make a difference — no meat, no dairy, no eggs.
A few days before I got my cholesterol re-checked in July 2017, I binge-watched health documentaries on Netflix, so I was already learning about the potential benefits of a plant-based diet.
I made the switch immediately, eating lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, rice and whole grains.
Watching the films “Forks Over Knives” and “What the Health” helped make the transition easier. I also started following vegans on Instagram for inspiration.
But as the weeks went by, I was anxious to learn if my vegan diet was really lowering my cholesterol.
Two months after my last visit, I returned to the same CVS MinuteClinic for another $30 cholesterol test. The results were a lot different this time around…
September 2017 cholesterol test results
- Total cholesterol: 193
- HDL (good): 42
- LDL (bad): 123
- Triglycerides: 142
After just two months on a vegan diet, my total cholesterol fell by nearly 20% to 193. My LDL cholesterol (bad), which was 158 in July, dropped to 123.
Going forward, my goal is to get my LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dL — and I am optimistic.
I am planning to continue my vegan diet, but there is room for improvement. I am hoping to lower my LDL cholesterol by cutting out the packaged foods that I have relied on for convenience.
Editor’s note: This story reflects my personal experience. I am not a nutrition expert. Consult your doctor before making changes to your diet.
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I am a full-time writer/editor for money expert Clark Howard, host of The Clark Howard Show. Find my latest stories here.