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10 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol Without Medication

By Steve Edwards
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Big Pharma took another hit last month when some studies were released showing that two anticholesterol drugs, Zetia and Vytorin, were ineffective in lowering the risk of heart disease. These drugs did approximately 5 billion dollars in business last year, mainly because they are safer than other more proven anticholesterol meds, like Lipitor and Crestor. Without a definitively safe and effective cholesterol-reducing drug on the market, look for the natural, old-school methods to come back into fashion. We'll take a look at how to reduce your cholesterol levels naturally.


Before we get into the solutions, however, let's have a closer look at the problem. Our society has become addicted to drugs, and not just recreational ones. We look for drugs to aid us in just about any activity we do regularly, from sleeping, to sex, to sports, and most things in between. In our mad rush for enhanced performance, results, and the bottom line, we've become lazy and forgotten the fundamentals—the basic law of nature that rewards hard work. Drugs are highly beneficial for many medical conditions but they don't—or can't—offset poor lifestyle choices. If we refocus as a whole, then we'd be far less dependent on artificial solutions, but that's not how it's playing out. In this latest example from Big Pharma, the tail is clearly wagging the dog.

VytorinIn this case, the studies began trickling out in 2006 but weren't made available to the public until last month. Clearly, some type of hush order had been instigated. And even now, with the information out, sales aren't expected to decline that much—a sign that marketing influence can offset scientific evidence. "I don't know why this would have any impact on mainstream use," stated Schering-Plough (makers of Vytorin) Chief Executive Fred Hassan, inferring that a drug's efficacy didn't matter to sales. After all, the studies didn't show that the drugs weren't safe, just ineffective. Is this an assumption that we now only take drugs because they're safe? Further nailing the point home was ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson, who reported in detail how Vytorin didn't work and then added, "Don't stop taking it. It's not dangerous."

It seems like, in the medical marketing world, your only choices seem to be between the safe and ineffective drug and the effective but dangerous one. "People need to turn back to statins," reported Yale University cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz, referring to Lipitor, Crestor, and other widely used brands. "We know that statins are good drugs. We know that they reduce risks." Of course, there's a downside to these, too, which you've probably noticed if you've caught the minute-long disclaimer that runs longer than the advertising segment of statin ads.

Beyond those less-deadly side effects, statins are now linked to—still theoretically—ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Some of this was discussed in Dr. Duane Graveline's books, Statin Drugs: Side Effects and the Misguided War on Cholesterol and Lipitor,Thief of Memory, but a more direct link to ALS was cited in a study released in the June 2007 edition of Drug Safety. While the paper is cautious in tone, warning readers that the authors do "not do more than raise the signal for further work and analysis" of a possible connection between ALS or what they're calling an "ALS-like syndrome" and the use of statin medications, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor), and others, it still bears merit. This led to a front-page story in the July 3 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

ZetiaRegardless of the final outcome, some risk may be associated, and not all doctors are so quick to jump on the bandwagon. "It will be 2012—ten years after the drug was introduced—before we know the answer," said Dr. Steven Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist. The quote was in reference to Zetia but could have been about any drug that hasn't been studied long-term.

These latest situations have renewed debate about the ways drugs are tested and approved in the U.S. and whether they're being released to market too soon. For example, the FDA allows "surrogate endpoints" for drug approval. Instead of relying on ultimate outcomes—a reduction in heart attacks or strokes, for instance, or a decrease in deaths—many studies measure a drug's effectiveness by using interim markers, such as decreasing blood pressure levels or lowering LDL cholesterol. The reason, according to Dr. Robert Temple, director of the agency's off-of-medical policy, ". . . waiting for the results of large-scale outcome trials would cost too much and take too long, possibly delaying life-saving advances for millions of people."

But the difference could also be money, as the longer it takes a drug to get to market, the less its profit upside. In an article in Forbes, Matthew Herper states that "drugmakers are in a hurry to make as much money as they can off their medicines before patents expire. The patent clock starts ticking when a molecule is made in the lab or a new use for it is discovered. It doesn't stop ticking while a drugmaker does a five-year study to compare the drug, in safety and efficacy, with the alternatives. 'Patents don't last forever,' says Paul Thompson, chief of cardiology for Hartford Hospital and a consultant to drugmakers. 'If prescriptions slow, that's revenue you'll never recapture.'"

Dr. Nortin M. Hadler, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, sums up the current quagmire of the drug business when he said to MSNBC, "In our zeal to do modern medicine . . . we've managed to lose our way. We've forgotten to ask: 'Does this matter to the patient?'"

One thing we know that works is lifestyle change. Some of the risk of developing heart disease is inherited but, no matter what hand you're dealt, you can fight it naturally in a highly effective manner. Here are 10 ways to lower your cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease, naturally.

  1. Turbo Jam® WorkoutExercise. Once again, we're back to the very basics (isn't this our solution to everything?). But, seriously, the human body was built to move. If you don't move, it falls apart or, in this case, a more appropriate analogy might be that you gum up the works. Frequent exercise fights the buildup of cholesterol in the blood and plaque on the arteries. Exercising enough can even, to some degree, offset a bad diet. But daily exercise should be considered your main daily essential if you have high cholesterol, or even if you don't want to have it. From Turbo Jam® to P90X®, we have exercise programs to accommodate every need.

  2. Eat enough fiber. Specifically, you want soluble fiber—a great source is legumes (beans, lentils, etc.)—which helps remove bad cholesterol from your system.

  3. Core Omega-3"Eat fatty fish. Our diets are far too low in DHA and EPA, two fatty acids found in most fish. Among other benefits, these help fight the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. A good fish oil supplement can be an easier and safer alternative since Mercury contamination is a possibility when eating too much fish.

  4. Eat less meat—or at least less meat fat. It's loaded with cholesterol. Our American meat-laden diet is probably the single biggest dietary cause of increased heart disease risk.

  5. Eat less dairy—or at least less fat from dairy. You need a lot of fat in your diet but almost none of this should come from meat and dairy sources as they're loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat.

  6. Switch to olive oil instead of your regular saturated fat oil. Olive oil can help you lower LDL "bad" cholesterol levels without reducing HDL "good" cholesterol levels.

  7. BroccoliEat broccoli. And cauliflower, cabbage, and other stuff that looks like it came out of a mini Tolkien forest. These vegetables not only have a lot of fiber; they're loaded with indoles, compounds useful in fighting high cholesterol.

  8. Eat plant sterols. The National Cholesterol Education Program states that consuming 2 grams of plant sterols per day, in conjunction with a low saturated fat diet, may reduce LDL cholesterol by 5 to 15 percent. But where do you find them? Good question. Some margarine is now made with plant sterols, but you've got to do some research because some older margarine is terrible. Chances are the good ones will tell you on the label. Natural sources include avocados and sunflower seeds.

  9. SpicesSpice up your diet. Add cinnamon, chili peppers, evening primrose, and/or garlic to your dishes, as these seem to help lower cholesterol naturally.

  10. Stop smoking. Duh! Hmm, okay, this one's too obvious. How about adding some oat bran to your diet? Yeah, that's better—something maybe you didn't already know. Oat bran is another one of those foods that not only have numerous nutritional benefits but also show up on everyone's list of cholesterol-lowering ingredients.

IR Edwards, K. Star, and A. Kiuru. "Statins, neuromuscular degenerative disease and an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-like syndrome: an analysis of individual case safety reports from vigibase." Drug Safety 2007; 30 (6) 515-25.

Related Articles
"Nutrition 911, Part VII: The Best Food on the Planet"
"More Food Substitutions for Faster Slimming Results"
"10 Reasons to Eat Organic—and Local"

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