Our last few blogs have focused on heart health. Undoubtedly this is one condition wherein prevention is much, much more cost effective than treatment. Diet and lifestyle encompass the majority of preventive strategies for heart disease, and testing beyond just the usual cholesterol labs can provide additional insight into one’s risk for heart disease.
Yet, standard medical prevention of heart disease centers around cholesterol lowering drugs, namely statin medications which have come under fire as of late . Still, an astounding 36 million Americans are on these medications, and recent guidelines issued by the American Heart Association in conjunction with the American College of Cardiology in 2013 will double that amount to 70 million people!
And while muscle aches and pains are the most commonly reported side effects of statins, additional side effects include cognitive loss (brain function), neuropathy (nerve damage), pancreatic, liver and even sexual dysfunction. Additionally, statins can also amplify other conditions like thyroid disease, metabolic syndrome and cellular energy production.
A common problem I see in clinic in people taking statin medications is that while they’re ready to make some dietary and lifestyle (exercise) changes, they suffer from these side effects. This makes change difficult, as muscle pain and fatigue prevent many people from achieving any substantially effective amount of exercise.
Fortunately, there are several natural medicines that can (and should) be used in lieu of statin medications; not only to avoid their side effects but to also promote healthier ratios of the different types of cholesterols.
As always, diet (minimal sugary/processed foods) and exercise (daily) are by far the best medicine for heart (among other) disease. In addition; the following natural medicines are useful for heart disease prevention as well.
- Commiphora Mukul (Guggul extract): Native to India, guggul can help lower cholesterol and triglycerides (fats in the blood). Naturally occurring chemicals in guggul, known as guggulsterones prevent the body from making cholesterol in the liver, and also protect existing cholesterol molecules from undergoing oxidation, which transforms them into more dangerous forms.
- Red Yeast Rice Extract: A fermentation product derived from a type of yeast (Monascus purpureus), red yeast contains mevinic acid which inhibits the enzyme HMG-C0A reductase, blocking production of cholesterol - similar to how statin medications lower cholesterol.
- Phytosterols are plant chemicals similar to the cholesterol we make in our bodies. They occur naturally in vegetable oils, sees, nuts, fruits and grains. Phytosterols help the body process cholesterols more efficiently, and because they are similar in shape to it, they competitively inhibit absorption of cholesterol in the gut.
- Artichoke Extract can help lower the “bad” cholesterol (LDL), lower total cholesterol and raise the “good” cholesterol (HDL) with minimal if any side effect.
- Garlic contains an extract known as allicin, which has good natural cholesterol and triglyceride-lowering effects.
These ingredients and other natural cholesterol lowing medicines are found in clinically effective concentrations in Cholesterol Formula, our premier natural medicine for cardiovascular health.
Other important heart-healthy substances include omega-3 fats, which can effectively lower triglyceride levels and also exert a potent anti-inflammatory effect. Control of inflammation is an important aspect of heart disease prevention, as oxidation (inflammation) of cholesterol is one of the reasons why heart disease develops.
CoEnzyme Q10 is an important nutrient for the heart muscle. CoQ10 is needed for production of cellular energy, known as ATP and acts as a potent antioxidant/anti-inflammatory. CoQ10 occurs naturally in all cells of the body and is most important in the heart muscle, which never truly rests. CoQ10 can boost energy levels in the heart, keeping it functioning normally.
Additionally, CoQ10 should be a mandatory supplement in anyone taking statin medications; as they are notorious for depleting CoQ10 levels and this is postulated to be the cause of muscle aches and fatigue experienced by those taking statin medications.
If you’ve been told to take a statin, or can’t tolerate them, consider these and other natural options to keep your heart healthy.