Herbal Remedies for Cholesterol
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells of the body. Cholesterol is also found in some of the foods that we eat. Our body does need cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest foods.
Since cholesterol is fatty, it does not mix with blood and is carried in small packages called lipoproteins. These basically contain fat or lipid inside and protein on the outside. There are two types of lipoproteins.:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol also known as bad cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol also called good cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol causes a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries while HDL cholesterol carries the cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver which removes it. Higher LDL levels increases chances of getting heart disease while higher HDL levels lower them.
Plaque is the accumulation of cholesterol on the walls of the arteries which can cause the arteries to narrow and harden called atherosclerosis.
Narrowing of the coronary arteries that bring blood to the heart due can stop or slow down the flow of blood to the heart. The amount of oxygen-rich blood is decreased. This is called coronary artery disease (CAD). This can also cause chest pain known as Angina.
Causes of Cholesterol
Saturated fat in food raises LDL cholesterol levels. Trans fatty acids or trans fats from hydrogenated vegetable oil as well as foold from animal sources such as egg yolks, meat and cheese all contribute to raising LDL cholesterol levels.
Being overweight also raises LDL levels and lowers HDL levels and increases the total cholesterol level. Lack of regular exercise can cause weight gain and consequently raise cholesterol levels.
High blood cholesterol can also be due to heredity. An inherited genetic condition (familial hypercholesterolemia) results in very high LDL cholesterol levels. It begins at birth, and may result in a heart attack at an early age.
Age and gender also play a role in determining cholesterol levels. Younger men have lower levels of HDL than women while younger women have lower levels of LDL than men. As women and men get older, their LDL cholesterol levels rise. After 55, women have higher LDL cholesterol levels than men.
Measuring Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The National Cholesterol Education Program developed the following classifications for people over age 20 who do not have heart disease:
Desirable blood cholesterol--Total blood cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL; LDL is lower than 130 mg/dL.
Borderline high cholesterol--Total level is between 200 and 239 mg/dL or LDL is 130 to 159 mg/dL.
High blood cholesterol--Total level is greater than 240 mg/dL or LDL is 160 mg/dL or higher. For patients with heart disease, LDL above 100 mg/dL is too high. In addition, an HDL level less than 35 mg/dL is considered low and increases the risk of heart disease.
The main goal of cholesterol treatment is to lower LDL in people without heart disease. If the LDL level is in the "high" category and fewer than two other risk factors for heart disease are present, the goal is an LDL level lower than 160 mg/dL. If two or more risk factors are present, the goal is less than 130 mg/dL. If a patient already has heart disease, LDL levels should be 100 mg/dL or less. By reducing LDL, heart disease patients may prevent future heart attacks, prolong their lives, and slow down or even reverse cholesterol buildup in the arteries, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Cholesterol control is achieved by leading a healthy lifestyle. Quitting smoking, changing the diet to limit saturated fat and cholesterol, eating only what is required to maintain a healthy weight, losing weight and regular physical activity are all helpful in lowering LDL and raising HDL cholesterol levels.
Sometimes lifestyle changes alone are not enough to lower cholesterol levels in which case medications collectively known as statins are prescribed. However statins have been shown to have many adverse effects as well - the primary one being memory dysfunction,severe neuromuscular degeneration and depletion of an important anti-oxidant CQ10 that causes muscle wasting and heart failure as a result. Research shows that women with low levels of coQ10 are at higher risk for breast cancer. Statins also have been linked to erectile dysfunction.
Herbal Alternative therapiesThe world is increasingly recognizing herbal remedies as safe alternative therapies for a variety of health conditions and cholesterol control is one of them. Guggul or Shuddha Guggul and Garcinia have been proven to be very effective in cholesterol control with none of the side effects of statin drugs. It has been shown that Guggul can lower blood cholesterol by 14-27% and can lower triglycerides by 22-30%. The effects that Guggul has on the blood cholesterol levels is comparable to prescription medications but, being a natural plant extract, it is a far superior and much safer product. Guggul works on the liver by increasing the metabolism (or break down) of the bad cholesterol known as LDL Cholesterol. After taking the product for 4 to 12 weeks, total cholesterol levels can drop, triglyceride levels can drop and an increase in HDL (the good cholesterol) of approximately 16% can occur. Its benenfits as a weight-loss and fat burning agent have been well researched and documented. Garcinia inhibits the synthesis of lipids and fatty acids and lowers the formation of LDL and triglycerides. Garcinia not only inhibits conversion of excess calories to body fat but also suppresses appetite by promoting synthesis of glycogenis a very effective herbal medicine for controlling obesity and cholesterol.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Center for Medical Consumers article by Dr. Paul Rosch, MD and Dr. Gravelins