TORONTO, March 16 /CNW/ - Cardiovascular disease is the No.1 killer in North America. And high cholesterol is one of the primary risk factors of coronary heart disease and stroke. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, almost 40% of Canadian adults are classified as having high blood cholesterol levels. High cholesterol shows no visible symptoms - it's a silent villain slowly choking artery passageways. Most people are unaware until the damage has been done.
Cholesterol, in itself, is not "bad." Contrary may be a better word. As a substance, it's a waxy lipid (fat) produced in the liver as a building block for cell membranes, hormones, bile and vitamin D. It's also found naturally in certain foods. However, there are two types of cholesterol: good HDL (high-density lipoprotein), which does not clog arteries, and bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which in excess, does exactly the opposite. Problematic, high, LDL cholesterol levels contribute to atherosclerosis, the build-up or accumulation of arterial plaque (cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium and fibrous tissue) which results in atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of arteries).
First and foremost in keeping arteries fat-free is, naturally, prevention. High LDL cholesterol levels are most often the result of a poor diet. Nutritious and healthy food choices and lifestyle go a long way in keeping cholesterol levels balanced, especially as we age. Essentially:
- Remove saturated and trans fats from meal plans.
- Consume lean protein (including fish, chicken, and whey protein).
- Use omega-3 healthy fats and monounsaturated fats (olive oil).
Increase intake of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, grains and
other sources of fibre.
- Engage in regular physical activity. Aim for a healthy weight.
- And, stop smoking. Smoking has a direct negative effect on the good
HDL cholesterol levels.
Second, even though for many people simply changing eating behaviour and increasing physical activity may be all that is needed to raise HDL levels and decrease those of LDL, there are three important natural health supplements that have been proven to help decrease elevated blood cholesterol levels: niacin, plant sterols, and omega-3 fish oil.
Niacin (nicotinic acid), also know as vitamin B3, is used by the body in many systemic processes and has a favourable effect on high cholesterol. It has the potential to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL levels. When dealing with high cholesterol, medical professionals and individuals look to a specialized form of niacin called inositol hexanicotinate which is safe and flush-free. It has been used in Europe for over 30 years to help lower cholesterol levels and to help improve blood flow in the treatment of Raynaud's Syndrome and intermittent claudication, both conditions often symptoms of severe atherosclerotic disease.
Plant sterols (phytosterols) are naturally found in legumes, fruits, and vegetables, and are structurally similar to cholesterol produced in the body. However, plant sterols from plants or in a supplement form can lower cholesterol, specifically LDL levels, by reducing the amount of dietary cholesterol that is normally absorbed and transported through the intestines.
Dietary fish and their fish oil supplement counterparts contain a number of beneficial, cardio-protective nutrients including the essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Omega-3, rich in EPA and DHA, possesses a triglyceride lowering effect and studies show that it has a positive influence on atherosclerosis.
Third, in the event that statin medications must be prescribed by a health professional to lower cholesterol levels, certain supplements can help balance drug-induced nutrient depletions and deficiencies while contributing to the risk reduction of other cardiovascular diseases. Statin drugs work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. However, clinical evidence reveals that their use also reduces CoQ10 levels in the body, resulting in a wide range of problems including fatigue, muscle pain and weakness. Supplementing with CoQ10 can help counteract drug side effects. As well, emergent information now suggests that increasing the amount of dietary omega-3 fatty acids and reducing the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may also help statins work more effectively. And, a recent study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions has found that combining cholesterol-lowering drugs with a daily supplement of EPA from omega-3 fish oil reduces the incidence of sudden cardiac death, heart attacks and unstable angina, as well as the rate of surgeries to reopen blocked arteries.
Much of the Western world is at risk for cardiovascular disease, largely due to our sedentary lifestyle and less than optimal diet rampant in high animal protein and short in fruit, vegetables and fibre intake. For many, simply increasing exercise activities and improving upon unhealthy nutritional habits through wholesome eating and supportive supplementation will benefit their health greatly.
Michele Sevier Biography
Michele Sevier, DNM, DAc, is an educator and advocate of natural health and healing. As an independent advisor to Nutrition House, she is actively involved in many facets of integrative medicine including research, the formulation of specialized supplements, and providing natural health solutions to the general public through Nutrition House's 'Ask Our Expert' service at www.nutritionhouse.com.
SOURCE NUTRITION HOUSE CANADA INC.
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