Beyond Statin Drugs: Managing High Cholesterol Holistically
As an ND, my strategies for clients whose goals are to lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular events like stroke and heart attack are threefold.
1. Use dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce inflammation and blood vessel damage
2. Eliminate symptoms that result from statin drug usage
3. Lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise "good" HDL cholesterol using well-researched nutritional and botanical medicine
(If you're wondering what LDL, HDL, and statin drugs are, please read this article first for clarification)
Correcting the underlying cause of high cholesterol and blood vessel damage is always my primary goal for preventing cardiovascular disease. As I mentioned in the very first article of this series, I believe physicians owe it to their patients to do more than write a prescription for a statin drug and make a vague recommendation like "eat right and exercise more." That is why client education and resources are prioritized in my cardiovascular and metabolic health programs.
In this article I will share several key strategies that I use to aid clients in taking control of their health that go above and beyond the prescription pad and often work very well combined with conventional therapy like statin drugs.
Eating to lower cholesterol
Any diet that emphasizes vegetables, healthy fats, and lean meat as the primary source of calories, and encourages elimination of refined sugar and grains, dairy products, and saturated animal fat is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Two diets that have been well-studied to be beneficial for cardiovascular health are:
The significant differences between the two diets are that the paleo diet eliminates grains and sugar, and emphasizes protein as a calorie source. The Mediterranean diet allows for moderate consumption of grain and dairy products, and emphasizes healthy fat like olive oil as the main source of calories. I more frequently recommend the paleo diet with emphasis on fat as a calorie source in my practice.
It is well known that exercise is good for the heart! However, I often find that my clients are averse to exercise for one major reason: they are forcing themselves to do something they hate. The fact is, exercise should be something that you actually look forward to doing. Once you find an activity that you love, you will naturally make more time to do it. Who in the world makes time to do something they hate? In order to find physical activity that you enjoy, give yourself an "exercise trial month," where you experiment with some of these options:
Go for 10,000 steps
Circuit training with a certified trainer
Cross fit (taught by a QUALIFIED trainer)
Boot camp classes
Supplements as adjuncts to statin therapy
Studies show that headaches and migraines associated with statin therapy are often due to low vitamin D levels. Consider having your levels checked, and if low, supplementing with 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D daily (18) (19) (20.)
Studies show that muscle pain and cramping associated with statin therapy is in part due to statin depletion of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) Try a high quality CoQ10 supplement dosed at 60-200mg daily (21) (22) (23)
Supplements to normalize cholesterol levels
A wide variety of nutritional and botanical supplements exist that can have a positive effect on total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels. My recommendations are always based on the individual client and what will work best for their needs. I never recommend a client try all of these options at once!
Consider asking your doctor about the following options:
Interested in truly taking control of your cardiovascular health? Make an appointment or check out our comprehensive wellness programs!