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For Lowering Cholesterol, Pills Are Not Enough!

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A large number of seniors (one recent article pegged the number at 40% or higher) are taking statins – prescription drugs to lower cholesterol. But several articles and studies have reminded us that the first way to lower cholesterol is not a pill. Instead, we should be paying more attention to what’s on our plate.

We found this article on the New York Times website from nationally-known author Jane Brody. It reminds us of something we’ve heard before but tend to ignore: as Brody puts it, “Many Americans, when faced with a serious health risk like high cholesterol, opt to take a pill rather than adopt healthier living habits.” Her column is one more in a long list of articles, books and studies recommending what’s commonly known as the Mediterranean Diet. This approach to eating is based on the kind of foods enjoyed by people who live in the coastal countries of the Mediterranean Sea – little or no red meat, higher consumption of fish and white meat poultry, avoiding unhealthy fats, and eating plenty of healthy vegetables and legumes.

The underlying problem is that changing habits is hard, but taking a pill is easy.  “People should be following a heart-healthy diet, keeping their weight under control and exercising regularly,” says Northwestern University cardiologist Dr. Philip Greenland. “This would be a highly preferable approach.” But it’s not the trend in our over-medicated society.

Why is this knowledge important as you plan ahead for retirement? It’s simple. Here at Aging options we always urge our clients and radio listeners to make wise, intentional choices in all aspects of their lives as they age. Since none of us wants to be a burden to our loved ones, and all of us would rather avoid unplanned institutional care, the health choices we make today will have life-long implications in the decades to come.

Eating more wisely affects much more than our cholesterol levels. Brody’s article states, “In addition to its heart benefits, studies suggest the Mediterranean diet may ‘reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, arthritis and the metabolic syndrome,’” according to Mayo Clinic cardiologist  Dr. Stephen Kopecky. That’s quite a list! On top of all that, the Mediterranean Diet tastes great and can cost the same as or less than the unhealthier options many seniors choose. And getting off statins helps you avoid potential side effects that affect some users.

Changing your medications or your diet requires sound professional advice. We highly recommend seniors consult a geriatric physician, or geriatrician, as part of their health care team. We can recommend a geriatrician in your area. We also invite you to get the facts about wise retirement choices by attending a free LifePlanning Seminar in your area. The Upcoming Events tab lists locations, dates and times. We’ll help you chart a course to a healthier, well-planned retirement.

(Originally reported at www.nytimes.com)

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