High Levels of cholesterol in the blood are one of many risk factors for serious future problems. Too much cholesterol can increase the chances of developing heart disease (including possibly fatal heart attacks) and stroke. By inhibiting circulation, too much of this substance can also cause gallstones, impotence, high blood pressure, and loss of mental acuity.
Cholesterol isn't all bad, however. Your body requires it in moderation for the proper function of cells, nerves, and hormones. It is an essential component of every cell in your body, and life without it would be impossible. To distribute cholesterol throughout the body, substances called lipoproteins to transport it in the blood. One class of lipoproteins, called high-density lipoproteins, or HDLs, picks up the excess cholesterol from the cells and takes it back to the liver, where it is broken down and excreted from the body or reprocessed.
Under normal conditions, the lipoproteins keep cholesterol levels in balance. But this carefully calibrated system can be overtaxed when the body creates more cholesterol than HDL can sweep away. After the cells take what they need, the existing HDLs remove what they can, and the extra cholesterol becomes oxidized (especially LDL cholesterol) and attaches to the artery walls, it sets the stage for inflammation of the arteries. We call this buildup, which narrows the arteries and limits the amount of blood that can pass through them, arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Arteriosclerosis is the first stage of heart disease; when left untreated, it will lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Elevated cholesterol levels are often caused by the standard Western diet, which relies heavily on animal products, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates. It can also be caused by heredity conditions or preexisting diseases like diabetes and insulin resistance, or syndrome X. Although, in these cases, diet usually plays a role as well. It stands to reason, then, that high cholesterol can often be treated with dietary changes and exercise. Specific supplements discussed in this section are also excellent non-pharmacological ways to normalize cholesterol levels. Stress reduction has a beneficial effect as well. It is strongly suggested that you employ these natural strategies before trying any cholesterol-lowering medications on the market. These drugs, while effective at reducing cholesterol, are potentially toxic to the liver and may cause nutritional deficiencies. While they may be necessary in some cases, many doctors prescribe them as routine-often because they are afraid that their patients won't make the lifestyle changes that can lower cholesterol naturally. If your doctor wants to prescribe a cholesterol-lowering agent for you, explain to him or her that you're willing to embark on a new regimen in hopes of avoiding a life long dependency on drugs. Whatever your decision, be sure that it is based on your physician's and your analysis of your individual situation.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
Prescription for Natural Cures by: James F. Balch, M.D. & Mark Stengler, N.D.
Super Prescription #1 Cholesterol Support w/ Policosanol - LifeSource Product
Take 3 tabs per day. This proprietary blend from LifeSource helps reduce LDL cholesterol and lipoprotein(a), improves HDL cholesterol, and helps angina. * You can also try just our Policosanol 10mg by itself for great results too.
Super Prescription # 2 Red Yeast Rice w/ CoQ10 - LifeSource ProductTake 1,200 mg twice daily. This extract has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and increase HDL. Note: CoQ10 Must be taken when taken Red Yeast Rice for Cholesterol. You can either take ours with the CoQ10 in it or add CoQ10 to our regular Red Yeast Rice.
Super Prescription #3 Garlic - LifeSource Product Take 2,500 mg of aged garlic daily. It reduces cholesterol and homocysteine, has a natural blood-thinning effect, and has antioxidant properties
Super Prescription #4 Niacin - LifeSource Product
'Niacin is an essential B vitamin used to promote healthy cholesterol levels. Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily of the no-flush form (inositol hexaniacinate). It reduces cholesterol levels and increases HDL cholesterol.
Super Prescription #5 DHA – LifeSource ProductTake a daily dose of a fish oil product containing at least 480 mg of EPA and 360 mg of DHA daily. Fish oil reduces inflammation in the arteries, lowers cholesterol/triglycerides, and is a natural blood thinner. We have numerous fish oils.
Super Prescription # 7 Guggul Take a daily total of 1,500 mg standardized to 5 percent guggulsterone (equivalent to 75 mg of guggulsterones). This ayurvedic herb reduces cholesterol levels and increases HDL.
Super Prescription #7 Antioxidant – Super Antioxidant - LifeSource ProductTake a complex of antioxidants or a multivitamin, as directed on the container. Several of the antioxidants prevent cholesterol oxidation.
Often, there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, so it's important to have your doctor perform a blood analysis regularly. One sign of high cholesterol can be a buildup of cholesterol rings on the skin under the eyes. Make an appointment if cholesterol or heart problems run in your family, or if you experience any of the following:
- Mental confusion or dullness
- Circulatory problems
- Difficulty breathing after minor exertion
- Poor diet, especially one high in cholesterol, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates
- Hereditary tendency to high cholesterol
- Diabetes, insulin resistance
Just as a poor diet is a primary cause of high cholesterol, dietary changes are one of the best ways to treat it. One major key to balancing cholesterol levels is to consume a diet that's high in fiber. This means increasing the number of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains in the diet. Soluble fiber is a great choice. This type of fiber does not dissolve in water and binds cholesterol as it passes through the digestive tract. Oat bran is a great example of soluble fiber, and more than twenty studies show that it reduces total and LDL cholesterol when consumed on a daily basis. One bowl of oatmeal can lower cholesterol levels between 8 and 23 percent in just three weeks. Pectin, found in the skins of apples, is also effective, as is ground flaxseeds.
The reduction of fats in the diet, especially the harmful fats, is important as well. In addition, eating less sugar products and refined carbohydrates can make all the difference in the world for some people's cholesterol levels. Finally, many people with diabetes and insulin resistance find that cutting down on simple carbohydrates and increasing the consumption of protein foods and dramatically reduce cholesterol levels.
Soluble fiber can dramatically decrease cholesterol levels (along with your risk of developing many other diseases). Oats, brown rice, beans, and fruits are all good sources; have some at every meal. For breakfast, you might like to have a bowl of hot oatmeal, flavored with soy milk, bananas, and a little molasses, and an orange or a half grapefruit on the side.
The molecules in cholesterol are highly vulnerable to damage by free radicals. Reduce your risk of developing heart disease and other serious degenerative illness by increasing your consumption of deeply colored fruits and vegetables. Eat a wide variety for the broadest protection, and try at least five raw or lightly cooked serving's every day.
Not all fats are forbidden to people with elevated cholesterol. Essential fatty acids actually have a heart-protecting effect, so be sure to incorporate cold-water fish like salmon or mackerel into your meals several times a week. Flaxseeds are another good source of EFAs; you can sprinkle them over salads or use the oil as dressing.
Olive oil increases levels of HDL (the "good" cholesterol). The uses for this fruity oil are numerous: it can enrich pasta sauces, or you can add a little to a skillet and saute your favorite vegetables.
Garlic and onions are savory complements to vegetarian meals-and they help lower LDL cholesterol while raising HDL.
Add spice to your meals, such as cayenne, basil, rosemary, and oregano. These spices are rich in antioxidants to prevent cholesterol oxidation.
Nuts, such as walnuts, have been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Eat a handful daily.
Foods to Avoid
Fats that are saturated, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated tend to increase cholesterol and improve your cardiovascular health. Fried foods, sweet baked goods, and most crackers are all dangerously full of fats. Even margarine and vegetable shortening-items that cholesterol patients often use as substitutes for butter and lard-are high in partially hydrogenated fats, which are even deadlier than the saturated kind.
Sugar and alcohol stimulate the liver to produce more cholesterol. Avoid alcoholic beverages and all sources of refined sugar, including sodas, candy, and low-fat baked goods.
Excess consumption of caffeine has been linked to high cholesterol. You don't need to cut out your coffee or black tea completely --just keep your intake down to a cup or two a day. Green tea is a much better choice, as it is rich in antioxidants that have been shown to prevent cholesterol oxidation.
Cholesterol Drugs and CoQ10
The cholesterol-lowering drugs known as "statins" are among the most widely prescribed drugs today. These "statin" drugs work by inhibiting the liver enzyme HMG CoA reductase, which acts to help the liver synthesize cholesterol. The same enzyme is also involved in the synthesis of CoQ10, a vital nutrient that's required for proper heart function. A 1993 study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that the use of statin drugs reduced CoQ10 levels by an average of 40 percent after three months of use. Other studies have also found CoQ10 depletion effects. In one study, 100 mg per day of supplemental Coq10 reversed the effect.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Persistent, unresolved stress has been linked to high cholesterol problems, as well as to heart disease and stroke. Stress reduction should be a part of a comprehensive approach to preventing heart disease.
- Know your cholesterol and cardiovascular risk marker levels-all of them. Get regular checkups, and find a doctor who is willing to explain the numbers to you.
- Smoking is the number-one risk factor in heart disease. If you smoke and have high cholesterol, you're in grave danger of having a heart attack. People who smoke must quit immediately; even if you've never picked up the habit but are exposed to secondhand smoke, you must find a cleaner environment in which to live or work.
- Exercise lowers LDL levels while raising those of HDL. Find an activity you enjoy, and pursue it regularly. A brisk thirty-minute walk every day does wonders for almost everyone.
- If you have diabetes or hypothyroidism, work with a doctor to keep your disease in check and to devise an individual plan for controlling your cholesterol.
- Many cholesterol patients are told to lose weight. The dietary suggestions here will help most people take off excess pounds, but if you're more than twenty pounds overweight, you may need additional help.