So often I am asked if cholesterol or triglycerides can be lowered without prescription medication. The answer is yes. First, know what your low-density cholesterol (LDL, “bad cholesterol”) is and what it should be. If it is greater than 130, it is probably too high. If it is over 100 and you have one or more risk factors for vascular disease, it is probably too high. If it is over 80 and you have coronary disease or diabetes, it is too high. Risk factors, in addition to diabetes, include hypertension, smoking, family history, elevated CRP (C-reactive protein), and elevated Lp-PLA2 (lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2). I will discuss these further in a later blog.
Once you have established your goal LDL, begin your efforts to bring it into a more beneficial range. If you only need to lower your LDL about 10%, consider a combination of plant sterols, guggulipids, and policosanol. There are supplements that can help with this, such as Pathway brand Cholesterol Support; 1-3 daily, is a good way to start. If this doesn’t get you to your goal, consider red yeast rice, 600-1200 mg. twice daily. This a preparation made from yeast that is grown on rice grains. It contains substances similar in structure to the statin drugs. However, red yeast rice is often better tolerated. In studies, red yeast rice has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol as much as 23% and triglycerides by 36%. Like statins, red yeast rice can inhibit our production of CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10). Therefore, supplementation with CoQ10 is suggested.
Triglycerides, if greater than 150, are too high. Achieving ideal body weight is important. Dietary carbohydrate, especially refined carbohydrate, is often a factor and should be restricted. Fish oil, 1-2 grams twice daily can reduce triglycerides more than 40% and will help raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein, “good cholesterol”). Niacin is also powerful and can result in significant reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and may increase HDL cholesterol 20-25%. While these approaches are usually well tolerated, there can be side effects. Please consult with your health care advisor before beginning any program to lower your blood lipids.
Let us not forget about the role of diet and exercise. Healthy living means making healthy choices. Go for it!