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Cholesterol Basics

Posted: February 23, 2014 at 10:45 am by

Over the past 20 years, the importance of cholesterol in the development of heart disease has been clearly elucidated. Depending on a patient’s medical conditions, the current guidelines may suggest keeping the LDL (so-called bad cholesterol) as low as 100. Although there are several drugs we can use to lower cholesterol (the “statins” being the most widely prescribed), dietary changes may also be effective.

Diets have often been viewed from the point-of-view of deprivation – what can’t I eat now that my cholesterol is elevated. I need to reduce red meat intake, source of saturated fats, etc. But there is another way to look at this.

What you may not know is that there are many foods and vitamin supplements you can use that will actually lower cholesterol – some quite significantly according to the FDA.

Researchers have found that some foods — such as fatty fish, walnuts, oatmeal, and oat bran, and foods fortified with plant sterols or stanols — can help control your cholesterol. Some studies have shown that a diet combining these “superfoods” may work as well as some cholesterol-lowering medicines to reduce your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. In other words, if you eat more of certain foods, you can actually lower your cholesterol.

In addition, Niacin (Vitamin B6) has been used quite successfully to lower cholesterol. Although some people report facial flushing, taking an aspirin about 1/2 hour before you take the Niacin generally prevents this side effect.

Managing high cholesterol isn’t a simple do-it-yourself project. You need to work with your health care provider. And while changing your diet may help a lot, many people still need drugs to reduce their risk of heart disease. Also, remember that these foods aren’t cure-alls. A handful of walnuts or a bowl of oatmeal won’t give you a free pass to eat all the high-fat foods you want. To benefit, you still must eat low-fat foods and get substantial aerobic exercise (1 hour three times a week is adequate).

Posted in: Blog