If you’ve found my website, you’re probably looking for ways to lower your cholesterol without medication. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of your options to achieve this goal.
Current screening guidelines which give doctors a framework of when to screen individuals for various chronic diseases typically recommend that men start getting their cholesterol levels checked at the age of 40. For women, the guidelines tend to be a little more relaxed with suggestions that women start at age 50 or after menopause–whichever is sooner.
Assuming you don’t have another medical condition such as diabetes, this testing basically involves a 12-hour fast followed by a simple blood test. For most people, they find it simplest to stop eating after 8 or 9 pm, then go to the lab first thing in the morning to have their blood work drawn. After the test, your doctor will typically input values of your cholesterol test (HDL, total cholesterol levels) along with other variables such as smoking status, your blood pressure (whether you’re on medication for hypertension), age, gender, and whether or not you have diabetes into a Framingham risk calculator.
Here’s the app that I use (from the Canadian Cardiovascular Society) when I’m seeing patients:
If you’re curious about how this works, you can download it for free from iTunes: click here
As you can see from the picture on the above right, this app actually provides information on what your 10-year cardiovascular disease risk is as well as the corresponding target LDL (bad cholesterol) level.
What’s the Big Deal about High Cholesterol?
Elevated levels of serum cholesterol can dramatically increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Maintaining ‘healthy levels’ of cholesterol is important to reduce the risk of these diseases. When your doctor is treating your high cholesterol levels, it’s important to realize that it’s not just a number that they’re treating. Lowering your LDL cholesterol levels and in some cases increasing your HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) can dramatically reduce your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Depending on your risk category, your doctor might recommend statin medication along with healthy behavior modification.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Phytosterols May Lower Cholesterol
The results of a recent study suggest that Omega-3 fatty acids, when combined with phytosterols, may actually work together to help lower your LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Further, this combination may actually help to elevate your HDL or “good cholesterol” levels.
- 1.4 g/d (n-3) long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) capsules with or without 2 g phytosterols per day.
- Phytosterols are phytochemicals which are naturally found in plants. Sources Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids or Omega 3-fatty acids include fish oil or flax oil.
- The combination of phytosterols and (n-3) LCPUFA reduced plasma total cholesterol by 13.3% (P = 0.001), which differed from (n-3) LCPUFA alone (P < 0.001).
- 12.5% decrease (P = 0.002) in the combination group.
- Increased by (n-3) LCPUFA (7.1%; P = 0.01) alone and in combination with phytosterols (8.6%; P = 0.04), whereas phytosterol treatment alone had no effect.
- Lowered by (n-3) LCPUFA (22.3%; P = 0.004) alone and in combination with phytosterols (25.9%; P = 0.005), whereas phytosterol treatment alone had no effect.
In conclusion, the combined supplementation with phytosterols and (n-3) LCPUFA has both synergistic and complementary lipid-lowering effects in hyperlipidemic men and women.
The results of this particular study suggest that long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids) which are found in fish oil may actually help to naturally lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels. Additionally, the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on lowering bad cholesterol were synergistically enhanced by the addition of phytosterols.
Fish Oil and Red Yeast Rice
Some research has found that red yeast rice either alone or in combination with fish oil is effective for lowering cholesterol levels naturally.
- Fish Oil and Red Yeast Rice vs Simvastatin to Reduce Cholesterol
- Red Yeast Rice Revisited for Lowering Cholesterol
- Chinese Red Yeast Rice for Lowering Cholesterol?
One recent study found that a diet consisting of 2-3 ounces per day of pistachio nuts was effective in improving lipid profiles in patients:
One study found that the consumption of phytostanol margarine was effective in reducing cholesterol levels in both users and non-users of statin medication.
- Micallef MA, Garg ML. The lipid-lowering effects of phytosterols and (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids are synergistic and complementary in hyperlipidemic men and women. J Nutr. 2008 Jun;138(6):1086-90.