According to the American Heart Association an estimated 106.7 million adults in the United States have total blood cholesterol values of 200 mg/dL and higher, and of these about 37.2 million American adults have levels of 240 or above. Statin drugs remain the primary treatment for individuals diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, but they do come with numerous side effects and many of them are not benign.
For years well-meaning physicians have prescribed statins to lower cholesterol, because high levels have been thought to be a main predisposing factor to heart disease. Unfortunately, the body is not that simple. High cholesterol is not a direct link to heart disease, in fact we are not even sure if it is ONE of the links at this point. What we do know is that our bodies NEED cholesterol. It is vital in hormone development, nerve sheath development, brain health ect. If we are going to focus on the numbers game when in come to measuring cholesterol.....we should be equally as concerned about LOW levels of cholesterol as we are of high levels. The fact of the matter is if your levels are too high or too low it could suggest that your body is out of balance and may indicate that you make some lifestyle and/or dietary changes.
If your levels of cholesterol are significantly on the higher side and you and your physician wish to have them lower...there are other options aside from the statin drugs. Published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a study conducted by cardiologist David Becker, MD of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues studied 74 people with high cholesterol.
Half took the statin drug Zocor and the other half took red yeast rice supplements. They were followed for 12 weeks.
The medication group took 40 milligrams of Zocor daily and received traditional counseling in the form of handouts on diet and exercise. The supplement group took three fish oil capsules twice daily. In addition, those with an LDL cholesterol higher than 160 mg/dL took 3.6 grams of red yeast rice daily, divided into two doses. If the initial LDL level was 160 or less, they took 2.4 grams of red yeast rice daily, divided into two doses.
The supplement group also attended weekly meetings and was taught about lifestyle changes by a cardiologist and a dietitian. The group was urged to follow a modified Mediterranean diet, limiting fat intake to less than 25% of daily total calories, and to exercise for 30 to 45 minutes five to six times a week.
"We followed them for a three-month period," Becker says. At the stuy's end, the levels of bad cholesterol had declined nearly the same amount in both groups. "The LDL declined 42% in the supplement group and 39% in the Zocor group," Becker says. The supplement group also lost an average of 10 pounds in 12 weeks, but there was no significant weight loss in the medication group. Triglyceride levels, while on average normal in both groups at the start, decreased by 29% in the supplement group but just 9.3% in the medication group — a significant difference, Becker says.
Supplements and dietary/lifestyle changes can be a viable option in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in many individuals and should be recommended prior to taking a statin drug.
If you have cholesterol levels above 240 mg/dL and more importantly have low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) or high triglycerides consider the following: