10 Ways to Lower Cholesterol
How to reduce cholesterol
More than 100 million Americans have high cholesterol (above 200 mg/dL), which can clog arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes.
The good news is that there are a variety of time-tested strategies you can use to lower your cholesterol and decrease your risk for heart problems.
Some are better than others, some are easier, and some are cheaper. Here's a rundown of what's good and what's bad about cholesterol-lowering approaches.
Cons: Side effects can be serious, including muscle inflammation and increased liver enzymes. Cost is also an issue, although several statins are available in generic form, including Lipitor, which became available as a generic at the end of 2011.
Cons: Niacin should be administered only under the care of a physician because doses high enough to affect cholesterol can increase the risk of gout and liver problems, Dr. Pearson says. People with type 2 diabetes also need to be careful, as it can raise blood sugar. Read more about niacin.
Cons: Despite its availability, Americans seem to have a hard time getting enough fiber. Experts recommend 25 to 35 grams a day, yet most adults get only about 12 grams.
Cons: Exercise requires more effort than popping a pill, and communities often aren't set up to make it easier. "There's no place to walk; it's unsafe; you may get run over; there are crime issues," Dr. Pearson says. "We need to engineer our environments better."
Red yeast rice
Cons: Dietary supplements aren't tightly regulated in the United States the way drugs are, so there can be confusion about concentrations and proper dosages. A 2008 study found a 100-fold difference between the highest and lowest levels of monacolin among various supplement brands tested. Read more about red yeast rice.
Bile acid sequestrants
Cons: You have to take a lot of them to get a measurable effect, Dr. Warman says. Side effects can include constipation, stomach pain, and nausea. They can bind to other drugs, such as corticosteroids and some blood-pressure drugs, making them less effective unless you take the drugs three hours apart, Dr. Pearson says. Read more about bile acid sequestrants.
Cons: Much like exercise, it can be hard to eat a healthy diet consistently. Some people have to go all outadopting a vegan diet free of animal products, for examplebefore they see any difference, Dr. Warman says. Diet changes may not be enough to trump genetics, so don't hesitate to switch strategies if your cholesterol won't budge.
Cons: Side effects can include burping, infection, flulike symptoms, upset stomach, and change in sense of taste. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking Lovaza if you have fish allergies or are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. Read more about fish, fish oil, and Lovaza.
Cons: These drugs don’t do much in terms of lowering LDL, although newer fibrates are generally better at this than Lopid. Side effects can include headache, gas, and upset stomach. Read more about fibrates.
Cons: Zetia isn't as powerful as a statin, and it isn't available in a generic form. Read more about ezetimibe.