Nowadays I like the taste of low-fat cheese too.

photo of woman (PantherMedia / Tono Balaguer) Olivia, 53 years old

“My family doctor first noticed that I had high cholesterol during a general check-up. I was 40 years old at the time.”

My family doctor first noticed that I had high cholesterol during a general check-up. I was 40 years old at the time. I wasn’t particularly surprised. I know that it runs in my family. My mother and sister have high cholesterol too. But not as high as mine.

Ever since then I have regularly gone to my family doctor to have my cholesterol levels checked. My “bad cholesterol” levels have been high for years, but my “good cholesterol” levels are always quite high too. My high cholesterol has never had any noticeable physical effects.

My doctor has always tended to be against using medication to treat it. She wanted me to try to reduce my cholesterol levels by doing more exercise and changing my diet first.

I changed my diet

So I changed my diet. I tried to eat less animal fats. My cholesterol levels didn’t really improve, but they didn’t get worse either.

I’ve always been quite athletic. Nowadays I exercise about four times a week. I go jogging, do pilates and play table tennis. So I didn’t have to make any big changes as far as exercise is concerned. Not getting any exercise generally makes me feel bad anyway. I need exercise to make up for the fact that I spend a lot of time sitting when I’m at work.

I didn’t want to take any medication

My doctor thought my cholesterol was still too high so she prescribed medication – a statin. I took it for three months. But I didn’t feel good about taking it. I didn’t have any side effects or anything, but I just didn’t want to be on medication. My doctor eventually agreed to let me stop taking it.

Then I went through a very stressful time in my life due to a private situation, followed by a quieter phase. During that time I thought exercise and watching what I eat weren’t helping to keep my cholesterol within the normal range anyway, so I might as well eat anything I fancy again. Which is exactly what I did: I started eating butter, cream, bacon and lots of other things again. But the next time I went for a check-up my cholesterol levels were really high.

That’s when I truly realized that eating animal fats increases my cholesterol. So I changed my diet again. And I came to accept the fact that, although I can keep my cholesterol levels within a certain range by doing sports and watching what I eat, I won’t achieve normal cholesterol levels that way. That really bothers me. I have to learn to live with the fact that my cholesterol levels are higher than normal.

I’ve got used to watching what I eat

I always have to be careful and avoid eating certain things, which isn’t particularly great. But I know that my cholesterol levels will shoot up if I don’t stick to my special diet. I now avoid high-fat cheeses, butter and cream again. These are all things that I used to enjoy eating. But I’ve got used to it. Nowadays I like the taste of low-fat cheese too.

I live with the risk

I have my cholesterol levels checked regularly. That makes me feel safer. Last year I went to a cardiologist to have my heart checked, and everything was okay.

While I was there I asked the cardiologist about my risk of having a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol is only one of many risk factors, and I don’t have any other risk factors. That made me feel less anxious. I still think about it sometimes but it doesn’t stress me out that much.

I try not to let the fact that I have high cholesterol get to me too much. I don’t ignore it, but I try to live with it – to deal with it in a healthy way.


Acknowledgement

Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.