When your total cholesterol level climbs above 240, it’s time to take action to decrease your risk for a stroke or a heart attack. Quitting smoking, engaging in aerobic exercise at least three times a week, and eating a diet high in fiber and rich in fruits and vegetables will all contribute to the maintenance of a healthy balance of good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL); if the former is 60 or above, it actually prevents heart disease, while a level below 100 for the latter is desirable for people who have a higher likelihood for developing heart disease. There are also a slew of supplements that promise to keep your lipid levels in check.
Here are the pros, cons, and science behind a handful:
Several randomized tests revealed that garlic preparations had small yet significant effects on subjects’ cholesterol levels after one month and three months, with average reductions ranging from 1.2 to 25.4 milligrams per deciliters. However, a 2007 study that compared raw garlic against two popular garlic supplements concluded that none of the garlic preparations showed an appreciable reduction of cholesterol.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, showed that patients taking plant sterol supplements in conjunction with a healthy diet, regular exercisee, and a regimen of statin drugs saw a further decline in their total cholesterol. Plant sterols are effective at lessening the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream because they compete with cholesterol for absorption by the stomach lining.
Research published this past September at The Lancet’s Web site found that fish oil may be more beneficial to patients with heart disease than certain cholesterol-reducing drugs. Though scientists are unsure as to how omega-3 promotes heart health, it is thought to improve HDL levels, which can reduce the amount of LDL in the bloodstream.
Red yeast rice
A 12-week UCLA School of Medicine study found that 2.4 grams of red yeast rice a day produced a significant drop in cholesterol. A compound made by fermenting red yeast over rice, it contains lovastatin, which inhibits cholesterol-creating enzymes. But because lovastatin is often used in prescription drugs and can be toxic to the liver, the FDA banned red yeast rice supplements containing lovastatin and issued a warning in August 2007. Since then, lovastatin has been removed from commercially available red yeast rice products, which could greatly decrease its cholesterol-reducing properties.
I can say I have personally tried the Garlic, Fish oil and Red yeast rice- on the advice of my Doctor, who is pretty open to alternative medicines. I could not tolerate any of the “statins” to lower my cholesterol, as it had a side effect of causing aches & pains… (coupled with Fibromyalgia did not lead to a very good few weeks)
Because of other medications I am on, the Red Yeast Rice worked the best, and actually did lower my bad cholesterol. Ask your doctor which one is right for you. If your doctor is not as open about alternative medicines- ask someone who is, and make sure you do plenty of research, on drug interactions or common side effects.
As always, consult your physician before pursuing any route toward cholesterol reduction. If six months to a year of healthy eating and regular exercise fail to diminish your total cholesterol, your doctor may want to put you on cholesterol-reducing prescriptions such as Lipitor or Crestor. Make sure that any of the supplements you might be taking will not contrindicate any medications your doctor prescribes.