Five years ago, Nik Mercer was living in Brooklyn and working in the music industry, and his “nighttime-oriented lifestyle” wasn’t helping his health. “I probably didn’t get a single physical through all of my 20s,” he says. When Mercer finally went to a doctor before turning 30, he learned that his total cholesterol was a few points away from the red zone (>239 mg/dL)—statin territory. Looking for an alternative to starting meds so young, he and his doctor decided he should make changes in other areas. Here’s how Mercer used physician-approved strategies to push his total cholesterol down to 140 in about 12 months—losing 50 pounds in the process—and keep it there.
Docs told him: Be More Active
Cholesterol is a blood fat, and exercise can help muscles use these fats for energy (so they don’t settle in the arteries). Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, says cardiologist Robert Nierzwicki, M.D., of Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage and Delnor Hospitals. Better: Raise the intensity or duration of your sessions.
Mercer’s move: Row, row, row
Mercer knew he’d feel self-conscious at a gym. But while watching Frank Underwood rowing away the stress of the day on House of Cards, he thought, I could be a rowing guy. Its private, meditative appeal led him to invest in a Concept2 rower. He uses it almost daily for 30 to 45 minutes.
Docs told him: Eat better
Load up on whole foods rather than processed ones and you’ll naturally consume more fiber. And for reducing cholesterol, fiber has superpowers (aim for 38 grams a day). If all this healthy eating helps you lose weight, great. Shedding 5 to 10 percent of your bodyweight can significantly improve your cholesterol.
Mercer’s move: Say hello to the kitchen
Mercer cut back on eating out and made more stir-fries at home. “Lots of veggies, mise en place prep work, then high heat in the wok for a bit—and you’re done!” All that produce adds fiber, and Mercer sneaks in even more: “I’ll eat the stem or core of most anything.”
Docs told him: Limit alcohol intake
Light drinking isn’t necessarily bad for cholesterol—it has been associated with a potential increase in the “good” (HDL) kind. But down more than two drinks a day, week in and week out, and those calories can lead to weight gain, which can contribute to higher “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.
Mercer’s move: Redefine partying
After a few months of other changes, Mercer stopped drinking. “I got a totally different experience, socially and emotionally, out of the party and music space,” he says. He also started sleeping better and more regularly, which gave him more energy to commit to his other healthy habits.
This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Men’s Health.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io