by Dr. Tonya Fleck-D’Andrea
“My total cholesterol is 237 and my doctor wants to put me on a lipid lower-ing medication. What are my options? And should I be concerned?” This is a common question that patients have. Conventionally we are taught to associate cholesterol with bad health, yet in fact this fat-like substance is actually essential for proper health. It is essential for the health of our cell membranes and is also the precursor or many hormones, including our sex hormones. So why has Lipitor (a statin or cholesterol lowering drug) been the #1 prescription dispensed since 2000?
The concern is that when certain types of our cholesterol are elevated, we can develop fatty deposits in our arte-rial walls and increase our risk for car-diovascular disease. So looking only at your total cholesterol doesn’t tell you the whole truth.
Cholesterol is carried in the blood by proteins called lipoproteins. You may have heard of the terms “good” and “bad” cholesterol. HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, car-ries excess cholesterol to your liver for export. LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or bad cholesterol, transports choles-terol throughout your body where it can build up in arteries. The good news is this: High LDL cholesterol is completely avoidable. Diet, lifestyle factors, and ge-netics all play a role in your cholesterol. A whole foods diet composed of vegetables and fruits, lean protein, and whole grains with minimal prepackaged foods is im-perative for health. Avoid foods high in saturated fats such as organ meats and whole milk products. Eat meats that are free-range, grass-fed and grass-ﬁnished, as they contain less saturated fats.
Wild ﬁsh such as salmon have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which can protect against cardiovascular disease. Farm raised ﬁsh contain 2-3x less of these good fatty acids. Avoid trans or partially hydrogenated fats. Eggs have gotten a bad rap. Several recent studies have shown no corresponding increase in egg consumption and blood cholesterol levels. Soluble ﬁber found in foods such as beans, oats, ﬂaxseed and psyllium also help lower bad cholesterol. And of course regular cardiovascular exercise lowers triglycerides and LDL while in-creasing HDL. Losing weight if you are overweight will also greatly improve cholesterol numbers.
Some of the most com-monly prescribed drugs in the US are statins, which work by blocking an enzyme that makes cholesterol in your liver. Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor are examples. But these drugs can have side aches, liver toxicity, and block the production of Co-enzyme Q10, a natural compound concentrated in the heart muscle and a powerful antioxidant. Patients taking statins should speak with their doctor about supplementing with Co-enzyme Q10.
There are numerous supplements that can lower cholesterol besides dietary changes and exercise. Garlic, lecithin, guggul, green tea, ﬁsh oil, plant sterols and niacin are just a few. Polico-sanols and red yeast rice are also fairly well-known natural cholesterol-lowering substances. If you are unsuccessful at lowering your cholesterol through di-etary changes, exercise, and weight loss alone, it would be best to speak with a naturopathic doctor concerning what an appropriate protocol may be for you.
Call our ofﬁce to ﬁnd out how you can get a Free comprehensive cardiovas-cular panel done.
Dr. Fleck is the Founder & Medical Director of the Santa Cruz Naturopathic Medical Center. She received her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the South-west College of Naturopathic Medi-cine, her BS in Psychology and completed graduate work in Mar-riage and Family Therapy at the Univ. of MD. Dr. Fleck-D’Andrea specializes in Family Medicine & Women’s Health as well as medical nutrition, fatigue, depression & anxiety, detoxiﬁcation, heavy metal chelation, homeopathy and botani-cal medicine. Call for a free 15 minute consultation. 831.477.1377 www.scnmc.com