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Cholesterol: A very sticky issue...

December 17th, 2009

High cholesterol is perhaps one of the most common concerns of people as they age. What is cholesterol anyway? Is it all bad like most people believe? Do you know that 50% of people who suffer from heart attacks actually have normal cholesterol levels? If that’s the case, are there other things that we should know about?

Cholesterol is a wax-like substance found in the cell membranes of all body tissues. 75-90% of it is made in the liver from carbohydrates (de-novo synthesis). Only 10% comes from the diet. Therefore, what we really need to watch out for is the intake of carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates. Another good dietary advise is to avoid trans-fats or hydrogenated oils. It is these oils that actually cause an increase in oxidized LDL cholesterol.

An integrative approach to high cholesterol levels also includes exercise (aside from the previously mentioned dietary changes) and taking certain dietary supplements. Among the common cholesterol-lowering agents include garlic, policosanol, guggulipids, red yeast rice extract, niacin, pantothenic acid, chromium, L-carnitine and omega-3 fatty acids.

At this point in time, the main class of medications being used for lowering cholesterol levels are the statins. The main precaution I recommend for people taking statins is to take coenzyme Q 10 as well. This could prevent the side effects associated with statins such as myopathy or liver damage.

More on other risk factors for cardiovascular disease in future blogs.