Last November, I received a couple of health wakeup calls.
The first, which I’ve written about here before was cancer – squamous cell carcinoma on my tongue – which I had surgically removed and for which I had my official hospital discharge earlier this month.
The second came at the same appointment when my doctor said that my LDL Cholesterol was 197, HDL 66 and the ratio was 4.2. He wanted to put me on a statin drug, but that was quickly overshadowed by dealing with cancer.
I did a lot of research following those twin health scares and decided to improve my health through discipline rather than drugs.
I just had those levels retested and my LDL was 141, HDL 74 and the ratio 3.1. My doctor said what I was able to do in eight months was rare. Most people don’t change their lifestyle.
I’ll tell you what I changed, but first what I didn’t do.
I didn’t count calories. I didn’t adopt a particular diet (keto, Atkins, etc.). I didn’t starve myself. I also didn’t cut much, other than (almost) all sugar, starch and dairy.
I already didn’t eat much sugar, but I wasn’t strict about it. Now, almost the only sugar I have is the little bit that comes from eating out and dark chocolate.
Dairy started because it bothers I have a daughter who needs to be dairy free. We have shifted to almond milk (which my wife makes and is amazing), other nut milks, and sheep and goat cheese.
Gluten because the more you eat bread, the faster you’re dead. Also not allowed for my daughter so it wasn’t difficult to eliminate.
Here’s what I added:
1. Big increase in nuts, especially macadamia, walnuts, pistachios, and Brazil nuts. Nuts are great for cholesterol (who knew) and almost everything else. I have a few handfuls every day. These make for excellent snacks at work and help me not to be tempted by the ever-present candy and cookies.
2. Dramatically increased the amount and, especially, the variety of vegetables. I already ate more vegetables than the average person, but my research on cancer found how good a variety of vegetables are for you. Here is what I added to my daily salad: red cabbage, broccoli sprouts, radishes, radish sprouts, kale. I grow the sprouts at home. Also, replaced almost all rice with riced cauliflower, which I like better. I pre-make a salad for every day that I don’t have a lunch meeting, keeping olive oil and balsamic vinegar at work so I don’t have to use unhealthy salad dressings.
3. Increased herbs. I didn’t know how good turmeric, rosemary, and a host of other herbs were for you. I cook with them all the time and have some supplements.
4. Increased tea, especially green tea. And I drink less coffee because of it. But still didn’t give up coffee. Couldn’t do that!
5. Increased supplements. I’m taking magnesium, turmeric, berberine, vitamin C, fish oil, and more.
6. Increased exercise. I learned how healthy a walk is after dinner, so I have been doing that almost every night.
7. Intermittent fasting. The body needs extended breaks from digestion and I now skip breakfast a few times a week in order to fast for 14-18 hours.
There’s more, but I primarily credit these changes with my improved health. I disciplined myself in order to achieve a longer and freer life.