Updated date:

How I Lowered My Cholesterol Without Drugs

Author:

Simon has a degree in Life Science and lived experience with mental illness and side effects of psychotropic drugs.

Mixed Berries

Mixed Berries

Lifestyle Factors That Helped Decrease My Blood Lipids

High blood lipids put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. Since being on an antipsychotic for schizophrenia in 2014, my lipids levels were sky-high. Gradually, I was able to lower my numbers without taking any statins.

A combination of diet and exercise helped me to bring my numbers down to healthy levels. I made sure that I ate all the foods that are known to lower cholesterol. These included soluble fibre like psyllium husk, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds. I also drank soy milk and added it to my morning oatmeal. As for exercise, I worked out 5 times a week. Four of those sessions comprised of strength training with a bit of HIIT. For the fifth session, done just before the blood test, I did two rounds of HIIT. The right diet and exercise regime did wonders for my blood lipid levels.

You're right in thinking that it takes a lot of work and discipline to bring blood lipids down. But all the of your effort will be well worth it in the end.

What are Lipids?

Blood lipids are fatty substances found in your blood. They include triglycerides and cholesterol. Because they do not dissolve in water, they are carried in fat/protein particles called lipoproteins. There are a number of lipoproteins. The ones we measure are called High Density Lipoprotein or HDL and Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL. HDL is often referred to as the "good" cholesterol because they ferry cholesterol from the rest of your body back to your liver for disposal. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol as it carries the cholesterol to your cells and can deposit them in your blood vessels.

Why Should I Care About High Lipids?

High lipids, whether it be elevated triglycerides or cholesterol, are well-known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Excess cholesterol can be deposited and accumulated on your blood vessels, for instance, your coronary arteries or vessels to your heart. When this happens it can lead to the formation of a plaque. The plaque can narrow your vessels. It can also rupture and lead to a blood clot. This blood clot can block your artery, causing a heart attack or stroke.

My Case

In my late twenties, I suffered from my first episode of psychosis due to overwhelming stress from trying to complete a PhD degree. It was so severe I was hospitalized for two weeks. I later quit my graduate studies and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

I now take Invega Trinza, a tri-monthly antipsychotic injection, for my mental illness. It has been over 7 years since I have been on this drug and it seems to help prevent another relapse.

However, this antipsychotic has come with many side effects, including weight gain and increase blood lipids. After taking the drug, I gained 30 lbs and my lipids were quite high (see table below). I have managed to lose most of this weight through diet and exercise. My cholesterol numbers also improved, but were still pretty high. Recent changes in my diet and exercise routine have helped me get my numbers back down to normal.

My Blood Lipid Levels (mmol/L) Over the Years

Oct 16, 2014Aug 24 2017Dec 19 2019Nov 26 2020May 6 2021

Triglycerides ( <1.7mmol/L or <150 mg/dL)

1.97

1.61

1.12

0.84

0.74

Cholesterol ( <5.2mmol/L or <200 mg/dL)

7.06

7.09

6.3

5.45

4.99

HDL Cholesterol ( >1.5mmol/L or > 60 mg/dL)

1.18

1.23

1.46

1.61

1.63

LDL Cholesterol ( <3.5mmol/L or < 100-129 mg/dL)

4.98

5.13

4.33

3.46

3.02

How I Reduce My Numbers

As you can see from the table, my numbers gradually trended downwards. I was able to lower them without statins or any other drugs. Just lifestyle changes. These included nutrition specifically targeted at lowering cholesterol and exercise.

Let's look at nutrition first. In my reducing-cholesterol-with-food article (https://caloriebee.com/diets/Foods-that-lower-LDL-cholesterol), you will that there are certain foods that can lower cholesterol. These include soluble fibre such as psyllium and other fibres from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. Nuts are special in that they also have additional components that help lower cholesterol besides fibre. These include unsaturated fats and plant sterols. Soy is another food that I consume that can reduce cholesterol. You can see in my food intake (below) that I have included many of these foods throughout the day.

The restriction of food also helped me lower my cholesterol and weight. I practice intermittent fasting. I eat for 10 hours during the day and fast for the remaining 14 hours. I stop eating at 5:00 pm and break the fast at 7:00 am the next morning.

The other important component that helped me decrease cholesterol was exercise. I workout 5 times a week. For 4 of those days, I combine resistance or strength training with cardio afterwards. The cardio that I do is HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. I only do one short round of HIIT during the 4 combination days. Then on the other day, I do two rounds of HIIT without strength training.

Fresh Fruits

Fresh Fruits

Nutrition

Below you will find a complete listing of all the food I ate the day before my blood work.

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal with 1 1/2 tbsp almond butter, 3 dates, 1 heaping tbsp flaxseed, 1 tbsp of hemp seed, chia seeds and cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1 banana and about 1/2 cup of soy milk
  • 1 cup of green tea
  • Some water
  • Snack

Apple

  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup green tea
  • Some water

Lunch

  • Rotisserie chicken, vegetable (bell pepper, carrots, onion) and kidney bean stir fry, with a very small amount of rice (1 tbsp)
  • Orange
  • 1 cup of water with 2 tsp of psyllium husk
  • 1 cup of green tea
  • Some water
  • Snack
  • About 1/2 cup of frozen mix berries
  • 1/4 cup of soy milk
  • 1 cup of green tea
  • Some water

Dinner

  • Baked salmon with salad (spinach, cucumber, red onion) with 1 tbsp rice
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple
  • Handful of walnuts
  • 1 cup of water with 2 tsp psyllium husk
  • 1 cup water
Psyllium

Psyllium

Walnuts

Walnuts

Exercise

The day before my blood test I did my usual workout. I started out with a warm-up of walking, jogging and dynamic stretches. I then exercised my upper body, doing 6 exercises, one exercise per body part. These include chest flys, one-arm rows, pullovers, lateral raises, bicep curls and skull crushers. All these are performed with dumbbells. I then did a short session of HIIT. I did 30 seconds of intense activity and 30 seconds of rest. The exercises included squats, dumbbell swings, squat to press, skier swings, cross-body punches, mountain climbers, seal jacks, plyo sprinter lunges, split squat jumps, skip jumping, push-ups. I walked for 5 minutes to cool down.

On the morning just before I go for my test, I did two rounds of HIIT. Each round consisted of squats, sumo squats, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, plyo sprinter lunges, squat jumps, split squat jumps, alternating one leg deadlift, leg raises or bicycle crunches. I finished my session with a 5-minute walk.

Spinach

Spinach

For More Information

Blood Cholesterol, Blood Lipids and Heart Health. https://uhs.umich.edu/cholesterol

Your Blood Lipids. https://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-fats-oils/your-blood-lipids/

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Simon Lam

Related Articles