For those who have high cholesterol levels, it can put them at risk for serious health conditions including stroke, heart disease, as well as peripheral vascular disease. However, elevated levels of serum cholesterol don't often accompany any initial symptoms. For this reason, it's important for you to visit your doctor to have a cholesterol screening test.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol levels or heart attacks occurring at a young age, there may additionally be a familial or hereditary component to your elevated cholesterol levels. In these cases, you may have a gene passed on from one of your parents that exacerbates your cholesterol problem.

Depending on the severity of your cholesterol problem, your doctor may discuss various options including lifestyle changes, dietary modification, or alternative supplements prior to starting medication.

Dietary changes

By making changes to your diet, you can help to lower your cholesterol. For example, reductions in your total fat intake to 30% or less of your calories is one change. Changes in your intake of saturated fats to less than 7% of your total caloric intake is a second measure. Recommendations also include reducing your total cholesterol intake to 200mg or less. In addition, some foods can exert a beneficial effect at lowering cholesterol such as fatty fish, walnuts, foods fortified with plant stanols, and oatmeal.

Dietary supplements and vitamins

Niacin – When taken at higher doses, niacin which is a B-vitamin can be effective at lowering LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and raising HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels. However, Niacin when taken at doses of 2-3g per day should be done under the supervision of your doctor. It can have serious side effects at higher doses.

Plant stanol esters – These are typically found in certain types of margarine, in supplements, or as a food additive. Consuming 2 g per day of stanols can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 5-15% typically within weeks.

Soluble fiber – Keep in mind that soluble fiber differs from insoluble fiber in that it dissolves in water. Soluble fiber is also broken down in your intestine. It helps to prevent cholesterol from being absorbed. Common sources of soluble fiber include beans, oatmeal, and fruits such as apples, strawberries, pears, and others. Vegetables too are also good sources of soluble fiber including peas, beans, and lentils.

Fish oil – Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have beneficial effects in terms of promoting heart health. However, lowering LDL or bad cholesterol levels is not one of them. Though fish oil supplements may slightly raise your LDL cholesterol levels, they have other benefits such as decreasing triglyceride levels and reducing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Chinese red yeast rice – Chinese red yeast rice, a fermented rice product, contains monocolins, unsaturated fatty acids, and phytosterols capable of lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Basically, it contains a natural form of the statin drug Mevacor. Though some studies have demonstrated that Chinese red yeast rice is as effective as stain medication for lowering cholesterol, product uniformity can vary by manufacturer. It can also potentially cause some of the same side effects as statin medication.

Other supplements – There are other supplements which have putative, but unconfirmed efficacy at lowering cholesterol levels such as quercetin, red clover, garlic, soy, and lecithin.

Managing high cholesterol levels requires involvement and discussion with your physician. In some cases, your physician may try dietary and lifestyle measures prior to medication. You can also discuss some of the natural options listed in this article with your doctor.

To read more from this author, you can visit his dietary supplement blog or find other healthy living tips at Hive Health Media.


* Venero CV, Venero JV, Wortham DC, Thompson PD. Lipid-lowering
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* Woodgate D, Chan CH, Conquer JA. Cholesterol-lowering ability of a
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hypercholesterolemia. Lipids. 2006 Feb;41(2):127-32.

Author's Bio: 

Jarret Morrow, M.D. is a published author and medical researcher. As a former product formulator in the dietary supplement industry, he brings an expert perspective to herbal and nutritional supplements.