When Joe turned 60 last year, he decided he was overdue for a good, old-fashioned physical. He had always been blessed with good health, but he knew that at his age he should be having regular checkups, especially since he was overweight.
His doctor gave him a full exam and found no serious health problems. She also scheduled Joe for a cholesterol test.
Joe, a real estate broker, was surprised when the doctor called to tell him about the test results. His cholesterol was too high.
"My first thought was that I would file this away for later," recalls Joe. "But then my doctor said, 'We really need to get on top of this. Your age and your cholesterol levels raise your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.'"
That was the day Joe decided to take on a new project: keep his heart healthy.
Joe and his doctor talked about his risk. They decided that he could try lowering his risk with some heart-healthy changes. They made a plan. He would eat more heart-healthy foods. And he would take a half-hour brisk walk most days of the week.
"I didn't know if I could change my old habits. But it turned out to be pretty simple: Don't eat so much fatty food. And get some exercise."
One change at a time
Joe knew he'd have to ease into it. "I'm just not that type of person who can change everything at once."
So he planned ahead and wrote one food change a week on his calendar. "The walking was the easy part for me. I get out every evening for a walk. The food part took some thought," explains Joe. But as soon as he had it written down, his plan was pretty easy to follow. "Each week, I added a food that was good for me and took something away that was bad for me."
Challenges and successes
Has all this change been hard to stay with? "It depends on the day," says Joe. "When I've had a good walk, I don't even feel like eating junk. But there are some days, and times of the day, when I crave something I really shouldn't have, like french fries.
"Usually, I can fight it, but sometimes I give in. So I've learned to not beat myself up about that. Instead, I refocus on my plan and get right back to eating healthy food. What keeps me going is the results—I've lost weight, and I feel younger every day."
This story is based on information gathered from many people living with high cholesterol.
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine