When Going Vegan Doesn’t Lower LDL: Liz’s Story

Liz found out she had high cholesterol when she was just 10 years old. “It wasn’t too shocking,” she says. “We knew my dad’s family had a history of high cholesterol and heart disease.” Her uncle passed from a heart attack when he was just 39, and Liz remembers her grandmother’s cholesterol came back in the 700s.

“I got the bad luck”

When Liz and her brother had their cholesterol screened, Liz’s total number came back around 300 mg/dL. “I was a very active and healthy kid. I ate well. So everyone just shrugged it off saying ‘well, I guess you have high cholesterol.’” She and her family just assumed it was luck of the draw. “I got the bad luck,” she says. Liz became a vegetarian when she was 18. She didn’t eat any red meat and limited dairy. Her doctor at the time advised her to start a statin to lower her LDL cholesterol because it was so high. “I’m thinking, I’m 18 years old. I’m healthy. I exercise. I don’t smoke. I’m not stressed. I don’t have any other risk factors. I don’t want to take a pill the rest of my life. I’m not gonna worry about it, “Liz explains. In order to lower her LDL, she would take the leap and go full vegan.

“While being vegan didn’t help my cholesterol, it did make me fall in love with cooking.”

Six months after adopting a vegan diet, Liz had her cholesterol checked again and her numbers were exactly the same. “Even my doctor was like, that’s kind of surprising.” Liz was stumped, but she was loving her new lifestyle. She started a food blog, I Heart Vegetables, and she’s gained a large following sharing her vegan recipes. “I started my food blog when I went vegan because I realized I needed to learn to cook. While being vegan didn’t help my cholesterol, it did make me fall in love with cooking and making healthy food.” As Liz approached 30 years old, like so many of us, she decided to take her health more seriously. “I just wanted to know if this is something I should be concerned about,” she says. “I Googled ‘genetic high cholesterol,’ and I found the Family Heart Foundation.”

“This is it. This is what we have.”

She had never heard of familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). She saved the link and sent it to her parents. “I said to them – this is it. This is what we have.” Liz says she was thrilled to have an answer. “I remember that my mind was blown. Someone finally told me this is the thing you have, and it’s different from run-of-the-mill high cholesterol. I just felt so relieved.” This discovery also prompted Liz to seek treatment. She connected to a cardiologist through the Family Heart Foundation who helped her map out her family tree and secure a diagnosis. She shared this information with her father who is also getting treatment for his FH. “It was the perfect example of when you find someone with FH, you don’t just find one person, you find a family.”

Leave a Reply