Sonia Gupta, 52, was never overweight. The mother of two always led a fairly active life, which is why she was shocked at her cholesterol levels when she tested herself four years ago.
“I panicked. Everyone advised me to start medication but I had heard of the side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs, so I decided to change my diet and exercise my way through it.”
Gupta has a genetic predisposition to heart disease from her mother’s side. She went on a diet plan drawn up by a dietician and her levels began to drop within months. “I have a good diet where I can eat everything in moderation,” said Gupta.
Changing your diet might actually be more effective than cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study followed 345 people who were divided and put on two kinds of vegetarian diets: The first group had a low-saturated-fat diet. Participants were told to eat low-fat dairy and more fruits and vegetables.
The second group was helped by nutritionists to incorporate cholesterol-lowering foods into their meals, including soy proteins, nuts, oats, peas, and beans. The second group saw a drop in cholesterol levels that was three times higher than the first group. Both diets proved to be at least as successful as early trials of statins.
Dieticians, too, say the right diet can help control cholesterol levels to a large extent. “One should eat food that reduces LDL levels (bad cholesterol) and enhance HDL levels (good cholesterol),” said Eileen Canday, chief dietician, Breach Candy Hospital Trust. She recommends cooking oils such as canola, soya, groundnut, rice bran, sunflower and olive oil.
For Partha Ghosh, 46, the trick lies in checking his weight first thing in the morning. Ghosh, a Bandra resident, went from 122 kg in August 2010 to 87kg after one year and three months.
“I had high cholesterol and blood pressure in my 30s. But a drastic change in my lifestyle and diet made this weight loss possible,” said Ghosh, who won the biggest loser (weight) award at Asian Heart Institute.