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What can I do to reduce my cholesterol?

Natasha Turner, ND
Alternative & Complementary Medicine Specialist

There are several natural products to reduce cholesterol safely and effectively, including:

  • Niacin 500 mg three times a day. You may want to purchase a non-flushing niacin supplement. Begin with a lower dose with a lower dose and then increase.
  • Red Yeast Extract or Policosanols. I refer to these as natural statins. The standard dose is 10 mg twice per day.
  • Fish oil supplements have fabulous cholesterol reducing effects.
  • Your diet should be carbohydrate conscious and contain moderate amounts of healthy fats with little to no bad fats, and a protein source at each meal and snack. 
  • Exercise reduces cholesterol and raises good cholesterol. Every workout counts and it's never too late to start.
  • It is actually a very good idea to take Co Q-10 supplements whenever taking statin medications because they do cause its depletion. Co Q-10 is an antioxidant that is involved in cardiovascular health, cellular energy and healthy skin.

Several steps can help to reduce cholesterol levels. First, eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Keep your total fat consumption including saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats—under 30 percent of your daily intake of calories. Keep your cholesterol intake to fewer than 300 milligrams daily.

Saturated fats contained in dairy products (such as milk and butter), hydrogenated oils, chocolate, shortening, etc. should comprise less than one third of your total fat consumption. In order to reduce your total fat and cholesterol intake, cut down on eating meats such as beef, pork and organ meats (always remember to trim away excess fat). Also, avoid fried foods, nuts and cream. Try to limit your consumption of eggs to no more than four per week. Several times a week, try to eat meatless meals. Use skim milk and include fish in your diet. Include a wide variety of vegetables, pasta, grains and fruit in your diet.

Evidence shows that water-soluble fibers can help lower cholesterol. These include the fiber in oat or corn bran, beans, pectin found in apples and other fruits, and guar (which is used as a thickener). Although highly touted by media reports and health food stores, tests have not confirmed the phospholipid Lecithin as a reducer of blood cholesterol levels.

Other suggestions include losing weight and including aerobic exercise into your routine. Diet and exercise alone can decrease cholesterol levels by as much as 15 percent.

If you smoke, you should quit. This will help you avoid a wide range of health problems, including low levels of good cholesterol and increased risk of heart attack. (But you already knew that didn't you?)

Cholesterol can be managed through diet, physical exercise and medication. These are all very important components for reducing cholesterol levels and preventing coronary artery disease.

Sometimes just a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can lower your cholesterol levels. Eating heart-healthy foods—lean meat, fish, monounsaturated fats like olive oil, whole grains and fruits and vegetables—and avoiding trans fats, will also improve your cholesterol levels.

Regular aerobic exercise can help prevent a heart attack, or, if you've already had one, prevent a second heart attack. Exercise helps to increase your good, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level.

If diet modifications and increased exercise are not enough, a statin medication can be prescribed to reduce your cholesterol levels.

Make sure you are watching your diet, even small changes can make a big difference. Eating oatmeal for breakfast can bring down cholesterol. Exercise can help decrease both cholesterol and glucose. Before starting any exercise program, you need to have approval from your physician. The important thing is to continue to monitor your values and keep all follow-up appointments with your physician. Keep the lines of communication open with your physician to continue to follow your levels.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.