The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recently updated their cholesterol guidelines to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (Stone, November 12, 2013). This is the first major change in these national guidelines since 2004.
The previous guidelines focused on achieving ideal numbers for total serum cholesterol as well as HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels. However, the AHA and ACC are now shying away from the numerical goals for cholesterol and instead are focusing on a person’s “risk category.” There are only two risk categories. The high-risk group includes people with diabetes, a history of a heart attack, or extremely high levels of LDL. They recommend prescription intervention with statin-type drugs for all people in this group. Among people in the lower risk category, statin-type drugs are still recommended for those with a 7.5% risk of heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years. This risk is determined by a new risk calculator which takes into account age, blood pressure, total cholesterol, HDL, age, race, and status as a diabetic or smoker. People should discuss their health with their general care practitioner to evaluate their risk for developing cardiovascular diseases.
While statins have shown marked success in helping many people improve undesirable cholesterol levels, they also may bring with them side effects that are less than desirable: memory loss, mental confusion, high blood sugar, and muscle pain. Other common, but less severe side effects may include a headache, insomnia, flushing, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal distress, or skin rash.
For those who would prefer to steer clear of prescription statins, supplements may be a good alternative.
- Red yeast rice contains a natural statin, mevastatin, (Monacolin K) shown effective at improving cholesterol and triglyceride levels in several research studies. Red yeast rice contains much less Monacolin K than prescription statin drugs. However, the Monacolin K in red yeast rice works synergistically with other compounds in the extract to produce a greater effect on cholesterol levels than with Monacolin K alone. Mild and occasional side effects have been reported by some people taking red yeast rice, which include heartburn, gas, and dizziness. (A7 Health Notes, 2013)
- Garlic has also shown promise in research at improving cholesterol levels, lowering triglycerides, and lowering blood pressure. (A7 Health Notes, 2013) For those not interested in consuming raw cloves of garlic daily, capsules of standardized extracts are available.
- Guggul, also known as Gugulipid, comes from the yellow resin of the Mukul Myrrh tree, native to India. This resin has been used medicinally as a part of the Ayurvedic Medicine tradition for thousands of years. Recent research has shown Guggul to be helpful in lowering blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- A7 Health Notes. (2013). Garlic. Retrieved from Aisle 7: http://web.aisle7.net/api/1.0/us/assets/nutritional-supplement/garlic/uses?apikey=91797caf0e114e47b47009576575f611
- A7 Health Notes. (2013). Red Yeast Rice. Retrieved from Aisle 7: http://web.aisle7.net/api/1.0/us/assets/nutritional-supplement/red-yeast-rice/uses?apikey=91797caf0e114e47b47009576575f611
- Stone, N. J. (November 12, 2013). 2013 ACC/AHA Guidelines on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardkovascular Risk in Adults: A Report of the Amercian College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, online.