Are there natural ways to help keep arteries from clogging with cholesterol and triglycerides, a related fat? If you can’t take statin drugs, red yeast rice and fish oil are natural alternative therapies to help you achieve healthy cholesterol levels.
Red yeast rice
Red yeast rice is a traditional Asian medicine derived from rice that’s been fermented with yeast. Its cholesterol-lowering benefits come from a naturally occurring form of lovastatin, an active ingredient in some prescription statins.
Studies have shown that red yeast rice can lower cholesterol, specifically LDL or bad cholesterol, but there are no studies to prove that it reduces heart attacks and strokes like prescription statins.
But because the active ingredient in red yeast rice is the same as the active ingredient in prescription drugs, you need to talk to your doctor before taking the supplement.
As with statins, the drawbacks of red yeast rice include some of the same side effects as statins, including interactions with other drugs you may be taking, muscle pain, and dizziness.
Similarly, red yeast rice is not for everyone. You should not take red yeast rice if you have liver or kidney disease, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are already taking cholesterol-lowering medication or drugs to suppress your immune system.
Another factor to consider is that because red yeast rice is sold in the United States as a supplement, it’s not subject to the same Food and Drug Administration regulations as prescription medications.
So while red yeast rice may have beneficial effects, you have no way of knowing if the brand you’re purchasing will lower your cholesterol levels.
Fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, has been well-established by scientific evidence to be heart friendly, significantly lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.
Fish oil can be found in several kinds of fish, but the ones packing the most punch are lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon, and halibut. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week.
To be sure you’re getting the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil can also be found in supplements, usually sold as gel capsules. The supplements are considered safe, but you should check with your physician if you’re taking anti-clotting medication.
When you’re shopping for fish oil supplements, remember that not all fish oil is created equal. EPA and the DHA are the most effective components in fish oil, so the higher the levels of these two combined, the more effective the product.
Different doses of fish oil are used for different reasons. Please check with your medical provider whether fish oil is something you should be taking and what dose is beneficial.
Everyone with high cholesterol needs to remember that taking supplements is only a part of the picture. Making healthy lifestyle choices—eating a proper diet and exercising—are equally important and are usually advised as the first step in lowering cholesterol.
Making healthy lifestyle choices—eating a proper diet and exercising—are equally important and are usually advised as the first step in lowering cholesterol to help you stay well.
Tina Davis is board-certified as a family nurse practitioner. She has a special interest in risk-factor modification and cardiovascular prevention. She received her RN Diploma from Lancaster General Hospital School of Nursing. She has associate and bachelor’s degrees and also a Master of Science in nursing from Penn State, with a family nurse practitioner specialty.