At age 52, my dad died of a heart attack. He was cycling at the time. He kept fit and healthy, but unfortunately heart disease is hereditary in my family and exercise, and clean eating was not enough to control it. So I would like to say from the start that I do believe some people need to be on medication.
On the flip side, eight months ago a client Margaret (50) visited the doctor, was told her cholesterol was high and was immediately given a prescription. She knew that she wasn’t being active enough, was eating too much junk food and way too much sugar, but was surprised that her doctor didn’t address these issues at all. She spoke to me about this as she wanted to try to make lifestyle changes first to see if she could reduce her cholesterol before taking a prescription, and she became my client.
Regular workouts and making dietary changes such as reducing sugar and alcohol, increasing vegetable and meat intake and sleeping properly has made a huge difference to her health. First of all, she looks healthier, leaner and has lots more energy. When she went back for a check-up with her doctor, no prescription was recommended, as all her blood numbers have normalised.
According to Grainne Dooley, a nutritionist we work closely with here in Metabolic Fitness: "Eating saturated fat will not raise your cholesterol - in fact it can increase your HDL. However, it is important to concentrate on choosing high quality, organic fats - butter, coconut oil, meats, eggs, raw cheeses etc. as often as possible, all of which are very high in saturated fat! It is important to STRICTLY avoid vegetable oils like corn oil, canola, soy, rapeseed and butter alternatives, etc to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and more importantly, support the bodies own production of high-quality cholesterol particles. Following an "anti-inflammatory" way of eating - drastically reducing your sugars, including limiting fruit, breads, pastas and following a lower carbohydrate diet has been proven to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (calcification of the arteries) leading to heart attack and stroke which is what people are most often concerned about."
Diet and exercise may not be all the prevention you need for a healthy body; I would always recommend regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure everything is ok. In lots of cases, a visit to a nutritionist can help too.
Fitness and food can improve health and quality of life and are not always the only solution - I know that. I just wish more doctors would consider alternatives to drugs when possible, like in this client's case. Yes, perhaps the prescription she was given would have reduced her cholesterol, but I think the results of a healthy lifestyle are more beneficial in instances like this.
Until next time…