High cholesterol is one of the leading risk factors for heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. To lower cholesterol levels, doctors often prescribe statin medications as the first course of action, but they are not without side effects.
In fact, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (a part of the National Institutes of Health), many patients develop a condition called Statin-Associated Myalgia (SAM) and cannot comfortably take statins. SAM is characterized by muscle aches weakness, stiffness and cramps.
While the use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs has skyrocketed in recent years, as many as 40 percent of patients who receive a prescription for statins take the drug for less than one year. Side effects such as SAM are one big reason; others include the high cost, and a reluctance to take prescription medications long-term.
But there are alternatives. In addition to incorporating The Top Cholesterol Cutting Foods into your diet, there are supplements such as Red Yeast Rice that can help you manage cholesterol levels.
Red yeast rice is the product of yeast grown on rice, and has been used for centuries in the treatment of heart/circulatory problems. It has a nine naturally occurring stain-like compounds that work to help lower cholesterol levels as well as provide an anti-inflammatory effect.
A recent study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that dietary supplements of red yeast rice may lower LDL cholesterol levels by 21%, and a reduction in total cholesterol of 15%.
The participants were all intolerant to statins, having experienced adverse effects including muscle pain and gastrointestinal intolerance while taking the medication. But nearly all of these participants tolerated the dietary supplement of red yeast rice well, and researchers believe it could offer a blood lipid lowering alternative for people intolerant to statins.
A previous study followed patients with high blood cholesterol who met standard criteria for using statin therapy. They were randomly assigned to either an alternative treatment group or a statin group.
The alternative treatment group received daily fish oil and red yeast rice supplements, and they were enrolled in a 12-week multidisciplinary lifestyle program that involved educational meetings led by a cardiologist, dietitian, exercise physiologist and several alternative or relaxation practitioners.
The statin group participants received 40 mg of Zocor daily, as well as printed materials about diet and exercise recommendations.
After three months, researchers saw a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind) in both groups. However, while the reductions were similar-42% for the alternative treatment group versus 40% for the statin group-the alternative therapy group also had a substantial reduction in triglycerides and lost more weight.
Larger clinical trials with a longer follow-up period will be necessary to gather more conclusive evidence that red yeast rice (alone or in combination with fish oil) can be an effective alternative to statins. But if you can't tolerate or would rather not take prescription drugs to lower your cholesterol, talk to your healthcare practitioner about supplements how may apply to your cholesterol situation.
Fish oil, an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, is part of the Essential Fatty Acid Complex found in our Basic Nutrient Support. Red yeast rice will be available soon in our new Red Yeast Rice Plus CoQ10 formulation.