Supplements to Help Lower Cholesterol

Many people with high cholesterol levels or at high risk for cardiovascular heart disease (CHD) take dietary supplements to lower cholesterol. According to cardiologist Mimi Guarneri, MD, "Supplements can be very beneficial to heart health." The following are some supplements that may positively affect your heart: omega-3 fatty acids, plant sterols, niacin, psyllium, red yeast rice, and coenzyme Q10.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Commonly found in fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids help reduce triglyceride levels by 20% to 50% and increase good high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol. According to Guarneri, "Omega-3s are one of the most important supplements for the heart because of its anti-inflammatory agents. We know that inflammation is a common pathway for many diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease." Thus it is recommended that you eat oily fish regularly or take fish oil supplements to reduce your risk of heart attack, heart rhythm problems, and sudden death.

Plant sterols

Plant sterols – naturally present in some fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, legumes, seeds, cereals, and other plant sources – have been found to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol. "Plant sterols block cholesterol absorption and lower LDL by 10%," Guarneri says. A study shows that consuming 2 servings of low-fat milk enriched with plant sterols reduce LDL cholesterol by 9.5% in three weeks and about 7.8% in six weeks.

Niacin

Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B-3, is used widely to treat high cholesterol. Guarneri says that niacin has been proven to raise HDL and lower triglycerides. 500 milligrams to 2 grams of niacin daily is recommended; it depends however on the person’s blood levels. Many studies have provided evidence showing that niacin can dramatically improve HDL cholesterol with much better outcomes than with statin drugs.

Psyllium

Psyllium provides fiber that can help you reduce LDL and total cholesterol. Although its effects on HDL cholesterol are somewhat unclear, a number of studies suggest that fiber may increase HDL. Guarneri reports that 15 grams of psyllium everyday reduces LDL cholesterol by 9%. One problem however is that this supplement can decrease the absorption of other medications. Thus it is a must that you talk to your doctor first before taking psyllium.

Red yeast rice

Red yeast rice is produced by a certain yeast that thrives on rice. What’s good about red yeast rice is that it lowers LDL and total cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels. It also helps in preventing heart attack and improving blood flow. Red yeast rice contains monacolin K, a substance identical to Mevacor’s (a statin drug that lowers cholesterol) active ingredient. One study revealed that 1.2 grams of red yeast rice everyday results in reductions in LDL cholesterol (26%), total cholesterol (19%), and triglycerides (16%).

CoQ10

Our body produces coenzyme Q10, which plays a crucial role for basic cell functioning. Several small studies have proposed that it may reduce angina or chest pain. CoQ10 makes exercise much easier for those people suffering from clogged arteries. CoQ10 supplements are highly recommended for patients who are taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol.