Target Specific Heart Health Risks

Following a heart-healthy diet can do a lot to reduce risk, but for many people, it’s not enough. Heart-protecting drugs usually come with troublesome side effects, such as fatigue and the possibility of liver disease. For some risk factors, like homocysteine and low-density lipoprotein prescriptive drugs are not available.

I. Total Cholesterol: Desirable cholesterol is below 200; borderline high is between 200 and 239; high is 240 and above.

Beneficial Nutritional Supplements:

Plant sterols. Beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols have a chemical structure similar to that of cholesterol, which enables them to reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine. Several studies have found that plant sterols can lower cholesterol levels by an average of 6 to 8 percent. Take sterol supplements 2 to 3 times a day, products labeled plant sterols, phytosterols, or beta-sitosterol.

Niacin: This form of vitamin B-3 has been known since the 1950’s to reduce cholesterol levels. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration for lowering cholesterol, it is sold both by prescription and over the counter. As effective as niacin is, it triggers the release of histamine, which often will turn the skin beet red and tingly for about an hour. If you keep taking niacin, the intense flushing episodes should eventually ease. Start at 100 mg. once or twice a day and work up to 500 to 1,000 mg. three times a day.

Coenzyme Q10: People who must take statin drugs should also take 100 to 200 mg. of CoQ10 a day because statins can deplete the body’s natural supply.

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol: Small, dense LDL globules are far more likely to cause blood clots than are larger, less dense ones. And when a person’s antioxidant intake is low, LDL oxidation increases, which appears to be a key step in the development of heart disease. If total LDL is high, it may be wise to have an additional blood test to find out which type predominates.

Beneficial Nutritional Supplements: Plant sterols can lower LDL levels by an impressive 8 to 14 percent. Take sterol supplements 2 to 3 times a day, products labeled plant sterols, phytosterols, or beta-sitosterol.

Vitamin E: Won’t lower LDL, but will curb its tendency to promote heart disease. Contrary to common thinking, LDL is not entirely bad – it’s needed to transport fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10, throughout the bloodstream. Vitamin E and other fat soluble antioxidants prevent LDL oxidation. Take 400 to 800 IU of natural-source vitamin E.

Dietary Options: To lower LDL, reduce your intake of saturated fat (in fatty meats and dairy products) and avoid processed foods containing trans fats such as most shortenings, partially hydrogenated oils, and most cookies and crackers on the market.

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol: HDL is widely considered the “good” form of cholesterol, mainly because it helps transport the LDL or bad cholesterol to the liver where the LDL is then processed for excretion. The higher your HDL levels, the lower your risk of heart disease.

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