By Deb Loken
Cholesterol-lowering statins is one of the top selling classes of drugs in the history of American medicine, even though side effects may include liver damage, memory impairment, muscle weakness and pain. Many who start taking statins often don’t continue, and instead seek natural approaches, often through diet. But compared to the cholesterol we get in food, the body makes five times more in the liver; that process can be controlled with exercise, healthy diet and supplements.
Making cholesterol is only one of the liver’s jobs. When you exercise enough or eat fewer calories than needed, resulting in weight loss, the liver works harder to produce energy and makes less cholesterol. Exercise may also raise “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides, another type of blood fat that, when elevated, increases risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
To lower and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, the following supplements work best when combined with optimum diet and exercise.
Omega-3 fats in fish oil may raise HDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides. Essential for heart and overall health, omega-3 also may help control blood pressure and reduce inflammation, and are key nutrients for preventing heart disease. Enteric coated fish oil pills dissolve more slowly and eliminate fishy aftertaste.
Red Yeast Rice
Part of the cholesterol lowering property of red yeast rice comes from a statin naturally present in the supplement. The natural statin works the same as statin drugs, by inhibiting an enzyme the liver requires to produce cholesterol, but red yeast rice has a gentler effect. Other natural ingredients in red yeast rice provide benefits above the statin effect, so a smaller dose delivers more benefits. Take CoQ10 daily with red yeast rice for optimum benefits.
Derived from sugar, policosanol reduces the production and recycling of cholesterol in the liver, and may lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Because it is an anticoagulant, it may increase bleeding risk if taken with blood thinning meds.
Deb Loken is owner of The Grain Bin in Alexandria.