I’ve been dealt a great genetic hand. Both sides of my family are blessed with lengthy longevity genes. So over the last several years, despite being in my late 50s, I really haven’t been paying attention to my health. What me, worry?
In fact, I rarely see doctors and have skipped my annual physical checkup most of the time. I don’t take medications or smoke. I don’t overeat. Although I do pretty much eat whatever my heart (er, stomach) desires—albeit in modest portions. Plus, I typically take a half hour walk most days. Jack LaLanne and Arnold Schwarzenegger I am not. I wasn’t fooling myself that I’d ever be the cover model for Men’s Fitness. But I thought I was living a relatively healthy lifestyle with no reason to be concerned.
But then it dawned on me that I hadn’t gone for a physical in 5 years. It’s not to say that I didn’t think about getting one over the last couple years. But like many people, I delayed visiting the doctor for routine checkups because of the pandemic. So as society slowly returned to a semblance of normalcy, I thought it was time to get a physical. I did just that at the beginning of 2022.
The results were not good.
I wasn’t on the path to being a centenarian. Based on my blood lipid panel, I’d be lucky to see 90, much less 70.
A Heart Attack Waiting To Happen?
Check out my lipid panel and blood sugar metrics:
Triglycerides: 498 mg/dL
Total cholesterol: 244 mg/dL
HDL: 38 mg/dL
LDL at 118 mg/dL
Fasting glucose: 127 mg/dL
I was in shock to see these metrics. My doctor wanted to start me on medications and suggested lifestyle changes. I was faced with a big decision. Reflecting on what factors led to these abnormal lipid scores, I decided it must be my lifestyle.
I consulted Google and searched “triglycerides” and came across two top results: Triglycerides: Why do they matter? from Mayo Clinic and How to Lower Your Triglycerides from WebMD. Basically, triglycerides are fats (lipids) in our blood that provide energy to our body. When we eat more calories than what we can burn, the extra calories are converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells for later use. In principle, taking in less calories and burning more calories would help bring triglycerides down.
In principle, taking in less calories and burning more calories would help bring triglycerides down.
I further reasoned that if my current numbers are temporarily the outcome of my lifestyle, then why can’t I reverse the numbers by changing my lifestyle for the better? But this story isn’t just about my triglycerides. My lifestyle was also impacting my cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and my body weight. Of course, these metrics are all connected.
I had to admit that over the years I gained weight. But living in denial is the ultimate defense mechanism: I reasoned that I was still within the normal Body Mass Index (BMI) range.
But after my physical I decided to face the fact that I needed to lose some extra weight. I decided to put myself to the test and told my doctor that within just three months, my metrics would improve.
Time To Get Serious
So here’s the lifestyle changes I’ve made since I got my physical:
1. Eat smaller meals. By making the simple decision to eat less at every meal (roughly 20% less), I was able to control my calorie intake.
2. Reduce carbohydrates intake. Simple carbohydrates like rice, pasta and bread quickly convert into sugar and spike blood sugar levels. Now when I eat rice, I limit my portion size to a few spoonfuls rather than a portion size of half the meal. The bottom line is to limit all simple carbs as much as possible.
3. Reduce fat intake. Watch for foods that are high in saturated fat such as red meat, butter and cheese. During my experiment, I had steak only twice when my kids came back home and I was eating (and continue to eat) more fish and white meat.
4. Avoid sugar intake. There’s no reason to ever have regular soda, candy or other rich sources of added sugars. Life is short so I have an occasional treat. But I don’t make it a habit.
5. Avoid snacks. I used to pick up a bag of chips, cookies, or other snacks at grocery stores when I saw them on promotion from time to time. I know they are not healthy but thought occasional treats are no big problem. So after I indulged for one last time, I vowed not to snack on junk food.
6. Avoid fast foods. I used to indulge in burgers and french fries once in a while. No more!
7. Reduce alcohol. Previous to my physical, I drank rarely to begin with (on average, less than one drink a week.) Now I drink even less and sip only at celebrations.
8. Control appetite at parties. It’s easy to overdo it at parties that are full of lavish and delicious foods. These days, if I’m at a party, I’ll enjoy only a modest amount of food and treats.
9. Exercise more. I am not a person that likes sports or going to the gym to begin with. But now my daily workday routine includes going for a half-hour walk after dinner. On weekends, I walk with friends for a much longer time—and I have the proof to show it. On average this year, I have walked 6633 steps per day as compared to 4547 steps per day last year.
Herbal Help and Aquatic Assistance
In addition to my lifestyle changes, I also have taken two dietary supplements to help me reach my health goals.
This is an all natural herbal formula that is based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). CholestAssureCholestAssure is composed of multiple Chinese herbs such as Goji berry, Reishi mushroom and Hawthorn fruit that may help support healthy lipid and cholesterol metabolism. (Disclosure: the author is Chairman of ActiveHerb Technology Inc. which is the producer of the product.) I take CholestAssure twice a day, 6 tablets each time as suggested. (I make sure to keep up with my ChlestAssure regimen by keeping a wellness diary, as seen below.)
2. Krill Oil
I purchased krill oil from Costco (I receive no financial remuneration from providing this link). Krill are tiny shrimp-like animals that are rich in essential Omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin, an antioxidant that helps support a healthy heart. Omega-3 helps support healthy triglycerides levels. I take 1 softgel per day as suggested.
Do Lifestyle Changes Lead to Weight Loss?
I was curious if these lifestyle changes would result in my shedding some unwanted body weight. So in my wellness journal, along with recording my CholestAssure doses, I started tracking my weight each day.
For consistency, I weighed myself each morning right after going to the bathroom.
Roughly two and half months after my shocking results, I got retested. I lost six pounds since Jan. 15. Although there were small bumps along the way, I am losing weight at a steady pace. My current weight of 145 lb is something I have not reached since 2013.
I look noticeably slimmer and more fit. But it’s not just about having my pants fit more loosely. My energy has drastically improved. No more sluggish feeling. In short, I feel great!
But did the lifestyle changes impact my lipid panel and blood sugar scores in such a short time? I was pleasantly surprised at the blood test results. My triglycerides now stand at 144 mg/dL, total cholesterol at 223 mg/dL, LDL at 130 mg/dL, HDL (good cholesterol) at 64 mg/dL.
And glucose (fasting) at 103 mg/dL.
How about the blood pressure? The numbers measured at the physical and three months later at the doctor’s office are 131/78 and 106/71 respectively.
These metrics haven’t been this good in over 15 years. I cannot be more pleased.
It seems the lifestyle changes I implemented in the past few months worked with great success. Truth be told, I cannot pinpoint to what extent each lifestyle change has contributed to my improved health.
Now I continue to do what I am doing. I feel pretty confident that I can keep maintaining these metabolic metrics healthy this natural way. Hopefully, my personal journey may serve as inspiration for you in reaching your health goals.
Dr. Sheldon Li is Chairman of ActiveHerb Technology, Inc. He received his Ph. D. in molecular biology with honor from the University of Zurich and conducted cutting edge research at Yale and UCSD. His seminal discoveries are featured in the "Molecular Biology of the Gene", an influential textbook studied by biomedical students in the US.