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Cholesterol - Is it All Bad?

Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance made by your liver. In fact, your liver makes all the cholesterol that your body needs, so the rest comes from the food that you eat. Cholesterol is needed by your body to help make cell membranes, repair irritated and inflamed tissues, make many hormones such as stress hormones and steroid hormones, and aid in the production of vitamin D. Cholesterol is carried around your body through the bloodstream as spherical particles called lipoproteins. You’ve heard of lipoproteins before if you’ve ever had your cholesterol checked: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is the bad cholesterol that contributes to the formation of plaque in your arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke; and HDL is the good cholesterol. So we want less LDL and more HDL.

To lower your LDL and raise your HDL, try these tips:

  1. Reduce your intake, or avoid, foods high in saturated fat, such as red meat, butter etc., and dietary cholesterol. As I said, your liver creates all the cholesterol that you need, so you don’t need to get it from your diet.

  2. Exercise – just move, move, move for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week.

  3. Avoid over-eating and maintain a healthy weight.

  4. If you smoke - stop.

Last May, I was feeling horrible. I had a relapse of Hashimoto’s disease, with weight gain and weak muscles. I had blood work done, and although my thyroid numbers were normal, my cholesterol was very high. In fact, it had never been this high. My doctor wanted to prescribe me a statin, but I protested. So he gave me six months to do something about my cholesterol. I didn’t want to take a statin, so I worked hard to improve my health. I had my cholesterol checked six months later and the total number dropped by 34 points. This is amazing, because cholesterol numbers don’t change that easily without medication. What did I do?

  1. I exercised an average of 6 days a week. I've always loved to walk; but my muscles were weak, so I was having a hard time walking. However, I forced myself to walk for about 30 minutes at a time. My muscles are feeling much stronger now. It's good to mix up your exercise routine, so now I also include some weights in my workout; and I teach yoga, which is great for the joints and for stretching.

  2. I ate lots of vegetables. I filled my plate with a variety of vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens. I still ate poultry, fish and sometimes red meat, but I made sure that I had more vegetables than protein. I also included other plants, such as fruits and whole grains. In fact, a mostly-plant-based diet is the way to go for optimal health.

  3. Because of #s 1 and 2 above, I lost the excess weight.

  4. An Ayurvedic Counselor suggested that I try Triphala, a famous herbal formula in Ayurveda for weight loss and cholesterol reduction. I took two tablets at night before bed, and I still do this You can purchase Triphala from Banyan Botanicals at

So, not all cholesterol is bad, i.e., the cholesterol that's made by your body. But if your doctor expresses concern about your cholesterol, know that it's possible to get it under control – I did it and so can you.

Lastly, Happy Heart Month!

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