by Dr. Aimee Warren
Cholesterol is a substance that is required for the body to make and maintain healthy cells. It is also used to make hormones such as estrogen and testosterone and bile acids which help digest food. Too much cholesterol in the body, however, can be damaging to the body leading to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. High cholesterol can be hereditary but many times it is caused by lifestyle choices such as poor diet and lack of exercise. That being said, we can and should incorporate better habits to decrease high cholesterol and keep the prescription medications from taking over the medicine cabinet.
Getting your bodies moving every day (yes, every day), decreasing saturated and trans fats in your diet (drop that frozen pizza!), and increasing the amounts of whole grains, whole fruits, veggies and fiber are just a few of the changes that can lower cholesterol and keep your heart healthy. Although lifestyle changes are the foundation in keeping your cholesterol in a healthy range, other alternative therapies can be utilized to lower your cholesterol naturally and may help keep you out of the pharmacy line.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Considered essential fatty acids because they are required for our bodies to function normally and they are only available from dietary sources. Omega 3 fatty acids come in the form of ALA, DHA, and EPA. Most experts agree that DHA and EPA are the forms that are most beneficial to our health. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation and also greatly lower triglycerides. Source: 2 Grams per day of fish oil or flax seed oil. Dietary sources include cold water fish/oily fish such as salmon, walnuts, ground flax seeds, broccoli, and spinach.
Red Yeast Rice: Used for centuries in China as both a food and medicine, red yeast rice is made by fermenting a type of yeast called Monascus purpureus over red rice. It contains chemicals similar to those found in statin medications and works by inhibiting an enzyme in the body that makes cholesterol. In one study performed by the American Heart Association, red yeast rice decreased total cholesterol by 16%, “bad” cholesterol LDL by 21% and lowered triglycerides by 24%. Source: 1200-2400 Milligrams of red yeast rice powder in capsule form daily. Take with food.
Niacin (Vitamin B3): Niacin has been a well-studied supplement shown to decrease cholesterol. Specifically, it has been shown to lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol). Flushing of the skin is a common and potentially unpleasant side effect of niacin; however taking the slow release form and taking a baby aspirin along with it may help decrease this effect.
Source: Men 16 milligrams daily; women 14 milligrams daily
Phytosterols: Also referred to as plant sterol and stanol esters, these are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in plant cell membranes. They are structurally similar to our body’s cholesterol so when they are consumed, they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked and blood cholesterol levels are lowered. Total cholesterol can be lowered by 10%, LDL cholesterol can be lowered by as much as 14%! Source: Recommended amount daily: 1.3 – 2 grams twice per day with meals. Phytosterols are naturally present in small quantities in nuts, vegetable oils, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. You can also get the recommended amount through supplements and fortified foods.
Always ask your doctor before starting any new medication or supplement. Be well, Aimee Warren D.O.