Elevated cholesterol is one of the most common conditions requiring a prescription. Heart disease remains the number one killer of Americans and reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) is one strategy for minimizing this risk in high risk individuals. Although prescription cholesterol medications are very effective at lowering cholesterol they sometimes have undesirable side effects.
What are Statins
The most common cholesterol lowering medications are referred to as statins. These medications work by inhibiting an important enzyme in the liver that makes cholesterol because 80% of serum cholesterol is produced by our own bodies. Only around 20% comes from the food we eat. In the process of inhibiting the formation of cholesterol, statin medications also inhibit the formation of an important nutrient called CoQ10. This nutrient is fundamental in helping the cells to produce energy and in reducing damage from free radicals. Due to their importance in energy production many people who take statin medications can experience symptoms of muscle cramping and weakness due to this deficiency. Taking supplemental CoQ10 is an important consideration for anyone taking statin medications.
Generic Cholesterol Medications
A lot of cholesterol-lowering medication have now gone generic, including:
. Simvastatin (Zocor)
. Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
. Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
. Lovastatin (Mevacor)
. Pravastatin (Pravachol)
. Fenofibrate (Antara, Fenoglide, Lofibra, Tricor, Triglide)
The generic cholesterol medications are just as effective as the brand name medicines. When starting a new medication, especially for cholesterol, your doctor may have labs ordered after three months of usage, in order to see how well the medication is working. It is important to take the medication as prescribed. There are some natural supplements and alternatives we can take to help our cholesterol numbers:
Importance of Fiber
Adequate fiber in the diet is another very important consideration when working to lower cholesterol naturally. Two tablespoons of ground flax seed daily added to cereals, yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies is a great way to bind the cholesterol in the gut and help the body to excrete it.
Niacin, a.k.a. vitamin B3, has long been used by doctors to lower cholesterol levels. Niacin works to improve the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol while lowering overall numbers as well. In therapeutic doses, niacin can cause “niacin flush” which is a symptom characterized by a temporary sensation of heat flushing in the face and throughout the body. This is not a harmful side effect and is usually well tolerated. There are several types of non-flush niacin that release more slowly into the body and prevents or minimizes the flushing effect. To minimize the flushing effect of any niacin product, take a baby aspirin when taking a niacin supplement.
Red yeast rice is a type of yeast that grows on a specific type of Chinese rice. The compound in this yeast is identical to the active compound in statin medications. In fact, the medications were originally derived from this yeast. When given in its natural form as Red Yeast Rice it seems to have less potential for causing the negative side effects (muscle cramps/fatigue, liver damage) associated with the medication statin counterpart. However, if given in high enough doses to sensitive people, mild muscle pain and cramps can occur. Concomitantly supplementing with CoQ10 usually prevents these problems. Red Yeast Rice is an excellent option for those people who have moderate to severe elevations in cholesterol. Your local pharmacist can help you determine what dose is best for you.
Fish oil is one of the best selling supplements for many reasons. Fish oil is incredibly effective at reducing inflammation, improving metabolism, increasing nutrient absorption, and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels (HDL). But like all other supplements not all fish oil capsules are made the same. When selecting omega-3 fish oil supplements be sure to get a quality product with high levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Look for small fish, such as sardines, or even krill, as the sources for fish oil supplements. Also look for oils which only contain omega-3. A lot of supplements also contain omega-6 and omega-9 but we usually take in enough omega 6 and 9 in our normal diets. Some oils even come flavored so there is no fishy smell or aftertaste.
No two people are the same; the supplements and doses your family and friend take may be too strong or too weak for you. If you need help choosing which supplements are best for you, the friendly pharmacist at Naples Pharmacy is willing to help you reach and maintain optimal health with the aid of supplements and the correct medications. Our store has in stock many natural options and alternatives to help your overall well being.
848 1st Avenue North, Suite 120, Naples, FL 34102
(Next to Wynn’s Market)