To Lower Cholesterol, Try the Mediterranean Diet

Many Americans, when faced with a serious health risk like high cholesterol, opt to take a pill rather than adopt healthier living habits.

A middle-aged woman I know is typifies this attitude. Thrilled with how well medication has controlled her rising cholesterol level, she continues to indulge in foods rich in cholesterol-raising saturated fats. She also carries around more body fat, especially risky abdominal fat, than is considered healthful.

Dr. Philip Greenland, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said, “People should be following a heart-healthy diet, keeping their weight under control and exercising regularly. This would be a highly preferable approach. Unfortunately, it’s not the direction we’re going in.”

Admittedly, swallowing a little pill every day is simpler than changing one’s behaviors — and especially one’s eating habits.

Yet experts like Dr. Greenland say that even when taking a statin or some other cholesterol-lowering drug, changes in diet and exercise habits are needed to maximize the drug’s benefits. He and others insist that drugs should be a last resort, after lifestyle changes fail to lower serum cholesterol adequately.

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