I’m a vegetarian with high cholesterol :( - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 09-24-2010, 09:58 AM
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Im surprised and upset by the results of my blood work. Im a vegetarian, and am nearly vegan. I eat vegan most of the time, occasionally allowing a pizza with real cheese and sometimes having a veggie burger that includes an egg white. However, the pizza has only been one or two per month. I used to drink a lot of sugary soda pops, but I quit that starting about June of 10. Ive also lost about 30 pounds since January.

However, unfortunately, I still have high cholesterol. Here are my numbers from my recent blood work:
Quote:
VLDL Calc: 35
Triglyceride: 177
Non-HDL Cholesterol: 163
LDL/HDL Ratio: 3.5
LDL Calc: 128
HDL: 37
Cholesterol: 200
Chol/HDL Ratio: 5.4

The doctor said if I dont improve by December, I should go on cholesterol-lowering drugs. I dont want to do that if I dont have to. I asked how it was possible for me to have bad numbers like this even though Im a vegetarian and he said I may be genetically predisposed to heart disease, and that if I weren't vegetarian, these numbers may be off the charts. My maternal grandfather died of heart disease.

I dont want to take cholesterol-lowering meds if I dont absolutely have to. Im thinking its time to make some changes. Maybe I need to go completely vegan and not allow for an occasional veggie pizza with real cheese. I also could cook with cooking sherry or Saki instead of olive oil. And I definitely need to do cardiovascular exercise at least three times a week. I need to be careful because Ill have to work around a chronic back problems.

Heres something the doctor suggested, and this will likely be controversial here at VB. He said the HDL cholesterol is the good kind, and mine is low at 37. To bring it up, he suggested taking fish oil capsules. Im vegetarian for health reasons, but have developed a healthy respect for animal rights vegetarians. However, Ive long said if there actually were some dietary requirement for an animal-based food, that I would eat it. We all know its a myth that its difficult to get enough protein without meat. Hypothetically speaking if I could not be healthy without meat, I would consume it. Fortunately, thats not the case. However, if Im genetically predisposed to heart disease and fish oil can make me more resistant to it, perhaps I should just go for it. If I were vegan except for fish oil, I would be consuming way less animal products than ovo-lacto vegetarians. So the way I see it, I have three choices, all of which involve adding exercise, dumping all dairy and eggs, and cooking without oils:

1. Just be vegan and see how my numbers change.
2. Be vegan, except for taking fish oil supplements.
3. Be vegan, except for fish oil only until my cholesterol numbers improve, then dump fish oil at that point and see how my numbers hold up.

This is tough. If I end up having to take cholesterol-lowering drugs, those are almost certainly processed with animal products. Maybe I would be better off using the fish oil if it can help me to prevent needing the drugs.

Other notes. The doctor said some of my high cholesterol may be a holdover from previous bad habits. Prior to June of 2010 I was drinking a lot of soda pop, about 3 to 5 per day. Prior to January 16 of 2010 I was consuming a lot of alcohol. Thats now history. I havent touched a drop since then. The doctor praised these changes and my 30 pound weight loss. Ive still got about 20 to go, which should also help me. Im also cutting way back on caffeine. To throw the soda pop out of my diet, I started drinking a lot of Chinese green and oolong tea, which are good, but have a lot of caffeine. Ive switched to mainly non-caffeinated herbal tea, which only occasionally drinking green or oolong.

Please, no flames on this topic! This is a serious issue and I need to take smart action to improve my health.
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#2 Old 09-24-2010, 10:11 AM
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I'm in a similar situation. My triglycerides are waaaaaay off the charts, super high and my doctor basically told me the same as yours. Hereditary/hypothyroidism/overweight - most likely what are causing my numbers to sky rocket. She also suggested fish oil (high omegas) but I asked her what a vegetarian alternaitve would be and she suggested I take flax oil capsules. I have to take 5 a day, but if it means not having to be on meds at the age of 33, I'm all for it. Make sure you go the capsule route because it's much more concentrated than just ground eating flax meal. In fact, I asked her If I could just eat more flax seeds and she said it would take a LOT of seed eating to get anywhere near to the amount I would need.

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#3 Old 09-24-2010, 10:58 AM
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Here are my (non-professional) suggestions:
- Keep losing weight.
- Increase your fiber intake.
- Keep a food diary so you can see if you're eating as well as you think you are (you might want to keep it in a format that your doctor has access to so you can bring it to him at your next checkup)
- Stop smoking if you smoke.
- Avoid saturated fats.
- Take a multivitamin.
- Look for magarine spreads that contain added stanols (they lower cholesterol)
- Eat walnuts and almonds.
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#4 Old 09-24-2010, 11:08 AM
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How much exercise are you getting?

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#5 Old 09-24-2010, 12:10 PM
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Flax oil capsules/Omega 3 capsules? Plenty of vegan varieties of those.

And at least you don't have a doctor that tells you being veg*n is bad for your health :P
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#6 Old 09-24-2010, 04:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fromper View Post

How much exercise are you getting?

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This.

+most of what Kellye (whose name baffles my tongue) said.
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#7 Old 09-24-2010, 04:56 PM
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Get a second opinion. 200 is nowhere near high enough to require a prescription. Seriously. (Unless there's something else happening medically)

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#8 Old 09-24-2010, 05:29 PM
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Tom, before you decide, do some googling about the differences between flax seed oil and fish oil. They have different fatty acids, and they're not exactly interchangeable. If you go with the fish oil supplements, there will be some people telling you it's not consistent with vegetarian values. I understand why some people feel that way, but. Those supplements are not food, they are medicine, and don't feel bad if you need them. You're doing everything you can to make your diet animal-free, and nobody takes supplements because they get off on the taste.
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#9 Old 09-24-2010, 05:30 PM
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Do you eat hydrogenated oils? Vegan doesn't necessarily mean healthy, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fat) will hurt you worse than any saturated animal fat.
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#10 Old 09-24-2010, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by RBG09 View Post

Do you eat hydrogenated oils? Vegan doesn't necessarily mean healthy, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fat) will hurt you worse than any saturated animal fat.

yes. triglycerides in the upper 170's is considered high.

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#11 Old 09-24-2010, 10:13 PM
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My husband and I take DEVA Omega-3 DHA that we buy through Amazon.com. It is vegan and made from algae.....algae is where the fish get their omega 3's. It is more expensive than fish oil capsules so we take a smaller dose (avg daily dose of 300mg-I take 1 capsule on odd number days, two capsules on even numbers and David does the opposite. This stretches a bottle of 90 capsules to last 30 days between the two of us...about $24). We also eat three walnut halfs or have some flax seed oil each day. This recommendation came from either Dr Michael Klaper or Dr Michael Greger. I listened to both of them speak on the same day.....now I can't remember which one said what! They are both terrific speakers though if you ever get the opportunity to hear them.
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#12 Old 09-25-2010, 01:19 AM
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I especially appreciate not turning this into a flame fest, given that fish oil is controversial in veg circles. Here's what I've decided to do. I'm going to do cardiovascular exercise 3 times a week and yoga 5 times per week and eliminate all refined white sugars and flours. Until December when I have my blood work done again, I'm eating vegan except for fish oil capsules. The thing is I already have some of these in my possession because a concerned aunt gave me some. I'm going to use them rather than throwing them away. If my blood work is good in December, I'll switch to the flax seed oil and vegan Omega 3 capsules. Then I'll have my blood work done again 3 months later and see how I'm doing.
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#13 Old 09-25-2010, 03:13 AM
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Good luck Tom. Do what ever it takes to reverse your cholesterol problems. I suggest in the meantime do your research on alternatives to fish oil capsules.
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#14 Old 09-25-2010, 04:09 AM
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Sounds good Tom zecat.

In addition to your good plan and the advice given, I also suggest giving yourself emotional things/gifts in addition, not instead of, these plans. The previous loads of drinking may speak of something emotional you need to give to You!
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#15 Old 09-25-2010, 06:54 AM
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Tom, if it makes you feel any better I'm a long term vegan with high cholesterol and triglycerides and I do a fairly high intensity cardio workout 6 days a week for an hour each day. :/ I never consumed many refined sugars and flours but I do admit to an increase in convenience type foods over the past year or so. My doctor wants to put me on cholesterol meds also but I believe that by altering my diet I can control these numbers myself. I've been reading Eat To Live by Dr. Joel Furhman as well as his other books and I think I'm going to start following his program. If you get a chance, maybe look for Eat For Health and also Cholesterol Protection for Life from your local library. It's very interesting reading.

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#16 Old 09-25-2010, 08:27 AM
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I've had high cholesterol since I was an adolescent. I went vegetarian at 15, and have been what can better be described as vegan (no meat/dairy/eggs) since I was 23. I'm now 31. My latest cholesterol test in January put me at 228 for total, with 141 LDL and 75 HDL and my triglycerides were 112. My doctor isn't worried about it because my HDL is so high, and my triglycerides are low.

I would go with a veg omega-3 supplement, and not fish oil. Something like Udo's oil might be a good alternative. I'd also make sure you're exercising regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and eat a lot of whole grains and oatmeal and nuts! Don't avoid all oil/fat, because you do need good fat in your diet. Things like olive oil are good for heart health.

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#17 Old 09-25-2010, 09:44 PM
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I'm not a doc so I don't know whether this is the case -- but if the fish oil is sheerly for the omega 3s then there are a lot of other options. Canola oil is really high in omega 3 (9 to 11%) and it's also pretty inexpensive.
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#18 Old 09-27-2010, 04:22 AM
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After reading your post Tom i decided to go get tested. I had not tested in a year. And since then i had become a coach potato. To my shock it was 4.96mmol/l from 3.8 last year. All im trying to say is you not in this alone. Thanks for posting this. I would not have known im heading for trouble if it was not for your post.
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