Shortly after my 60th birthday, my cholesterol level inexplicably began to rise despite daily exercise, a healthy weight and a diet low in saturated fats. I tried to bring it down by cutting cheese, eggs and most meat from my diet as well as taking a daily fiber supplement, fish oils and plant sterols. Yet at every three-month checkup, my total cholesterol — and especially artery-damaging LDL cholesterol — was higher than the one before.
When my LDL level reached 171 milligrams per deciliter, almost double what it should be, my doctor concluded that my liver was spewing out more cholesterol than my body needed. Noting a paternal family history of midlife heart attacks, he advised me to try a statin. My LDL level soon dropped to well under 100 and has stayed there for more than a decade because of a daily statin and a plant-rich diet.
Statins are the world’s leading cholesterol-lowering drugs, firmly established as safe and very effective at reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from atherosclerotic heart disease for most people.