How to Lower Your Genetically High Cholesterol – Step One

Mediterranean diningIn honor of Cholesterol Awareness Month, I am updating our popular cholesterol-lowering series from a few years ago.

Do you have a genetically high cholesterol level? A level that just won’t go down no matter what you do? Do your doctor, your friends, and your health insurer all scoff at your unsuccessful attempts to reduce your cholesterol level? Do you feel judged? That others think you must be sneaking fried chicken and fettuccini Alfredo when no one is looking?

I know how you feel. As a heart healthy nutrition author, educator and consultant with a family history of heart disease I have spent my adult life trying to lower my cholesterol. Following a vegetarian diet usually leads to a plummeting cholesterol level – but not in my case. Losing weight – same result, none.  Some people consider statin drugs a miracle; but the ones I could tolerate didn’t lower my cholesterol and the ones that worked caused too many side effects.  I am not alone, many of us have a genetically high cholesterol level. I jokingly blame it on my mother, and her mother, and her mother, but it’s really my French Canadian heritage. After several years of research I have devised a plan that works for me and hopefully will work for you too. Step One – Eat Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean Diet is based on a few simple principles; eat whole foods, enjoy your friends and family, relax with the occasional glass of wine. It is not a temporary “diet” to follow until you lose weight. It’s a lifestyle, a healthy way to live well. It consists of whole grain breads, plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, fats in the form of olive oil or nuts, and small amounts of cheese, fish, poultry, eggs, and even less red meat.  It is rich in greens and dishes are flavored with herbs and spices instead of fat, salt, and sugar.

The Mediterranean Diet is full of carbohydrates (numerous studies have shown that the healthiest people in the world eat the most carbs) so forget that whole crazy Adkins fad. The key is to eat quality carbs. Think whole grain (oats, whole wheat, cornmeal, popcorn, brown rice, quinoa, etc). Pasta, with vegetables, nuts, and olive oil is actually a healthy dinner choice. Dessert is usually fruit and people who live in the Mediterranean region eat more fruit than any place else on earth.

The Mediterranean Diet does not adhere to the “low-fat” craze that we espouse here in the US. But the main source of fat is olive oil, not the butter or hydrogenated fats that are so common here.  Protein is also primarily found in the form of beans and nuts with lesser amounts of fish and poultry. Red meats are kept for special occasions.

Don’t underestimate the importance of enjoying meals with others and socializing. A healthy life (and cholesterol level) is not just based on an eating plan. Embrace the Mediterranean approach and turn off the TV while eating! Interact with your family and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. Less stress leads to improved mental and physical health – including a lower cholesterol level.

This is just a quick over view of the Mediterranean Diet. If you are interested in more information check this blog often and sign up for our monthly newsletter!

I’ll continue sharing my “cholesterol lowering” story all week and would love to hear your stories too. Do you struggle with a genetically high cholesterol level? How do you manage your level?

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and

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