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From High Risk to Heart Healthy

As told by Harrison client, Paul M

Growing up, I was the kid who ate and drank whatever I wanted with little to no consequences. My metabolism was my best friend, keeping me naturally thin and in decent shape despite my unchecked diet. Even as I grew older, my annual checkups never raised any red flags. At 6’1” and 185lbs I appeared quite healthy. That is, until I turned 45.

During my routine screening at Harrison Healthcare, my doctor caught something. My LDL cholesterol level was sitting at 4.0. While it is within the “normal” range, it is on the higher and riskier side, so I’m very thankful for the preventive approach that was able to catch this early.

Dr. Bentley explained to me the dangers of high LDL, painting a vivid picture of potential artery blockages, reducing blood flow and oxygen delivery to vital organs like the heart, brain, kidneys and more. If untreated, this could lead to permanent damage to those organs resulting in heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or worse. By lowering LDL cholesterol, I could help prevent further blockages from occurring, and if the LDL cholesterol is dropped enough, the narrowed blood vessels can become “unblocked.” This was exactly the kick in the butt I needed to adjust my lifestyle. 

Taking the First Step

Despite my initial stubbornness and skepticism about seeing a dietitian, I heeded Dr. Bentley’s advice and reached out to Harrison’s Registered Dietitian, Sarah Ware. Little did I know at the time, this was a critical step in my health journey.

Sarah is patient, kind, and incredibly well informed. Over many phone calls and emails, she answered all my questions, no matter how long the list. She gave me practical advice that was customized to my needs. It was also encouraging to know that my visits, emails, phone calls and all the support Sarah provided was included in the Harrison Premier program. It made me more likely to seek answers from her rather than incomplete or inaccurate Google searches.

Under Sarah’s guidance, I gained diet insights focused on reducing cholesterol and my waistline. She highlighted the need to avoid saturated fats and embrace nutritious staples like fruits, veggies, fish, and nuts, while steering clear of the usual suspects: fried treats, chips, and high-fat dairy and meats.

Sarah stressed the role of soluble fiber and plant sterols in cholesterol management, offering practical advice on supplements and natural food sources rich in these elements.

Moreover, her knowledge of protein powders and daily intake goals has been instrumental in supporting my muscle development and keeping hunger at bay, leading to less snacking and more sustained energy throughout the day.

Initiating Meaningful Lifestyle Change

Driven by a renewed commitment to long-term health and guided by personalized recommendations, I changed my diet almost overnight. I started consuming mostly fish, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and protein powder. I removed all the worst offending foods from my diet, along with alcohol, and began portion control. I also cut out high-carb foods like bread, pasta, and pizza, and restricted my rice intake. I only ate when I was hungry, and I used protein shakes to keep me feeling full, so I wouldn’t snack on unhealthy foods.

But diet wasn’t the only area I focused on. I also started exercising more regularly, 3 to 4 times per week, doing cardio through the grouse grind and weight-lifting for strength.

In a matter of months, I dropped 20lbs to 165lbs. Even more impressive was my LDL cholesterol level, which dropped from 4.0 to 2.4 in just two months – a 40% decrease. Normally, a 20% decrease over six months is considered common, but I suspect that my intense and well supported approach sped up the process. Best of all, I feel so much better.

Looking Towards a Sustainable Future

Today, I’ve loosened up on my diet a bit but still avoid cheese, cream, junk food, and limit my alcohol intake to 2-3 drinks per week. I continue to work out regularly and have maintained my weight at 165lbs. As I look forward to testing my cholesterol again, I am grateful for the wake-up call that led me to a healthier lifestyle. Meanwhile I feel like I’ve potentially added decades of healthy, active living to my life that I can spend with my family.

My transformation is proof that it’s never too late to make positive changes for your health. And sometimes, all it takes is a little guidance and determination. Getting ahead of these things through prevention and early detection is the most important takeaway. I’m glad I found a medical team who values preventive care, conducts regular health assessments, and has physicians like Dr. Bentley and dietitians like Sarah to guide big lifestyle changes. Early action made all the difference for me.


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