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Treatment

Tai Chi

Sometimes described as “moving meditation,” tai chi began long ago in China as a type of martial art. Today it is an exercise-with-meditation combination used to improve health and decrease stress. Tai chi employs the idea of yin and yang along with qi or life force. Some of the movement names are nature-centric and often groups of people gather in parks to practice.

How It Works

A number of styles of tai chi exist but generally the focus is on a series of flowing movements accompanied with deep breathing. One pose runs into the next gently and gracefully which allows for exercise and increased flexibility. Tai chi is considered a kind of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and boasted approximately 2.3 million practitioners in a 2007 survey according to the National Institutes of Health.

Benefits

Tai chi offers a number of benefits. It is weight-bearing which can help bone health while still being low impact and easy on the joints. Muscle strength and flexibility can also increase from regular practice. The focused, meditative aspect can promote decreased stress and anxiety. It may also aid existing problems. Balance and coordination can improve which may lessen the risk of falls while the gentle stretching movements can ease stiffness and pain. More research needs to be done but initial reports indicate tai chi may also boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure and increase overall well-being in the elderly.

Precautions

Tai chi is generally considered quite safe though it is important to make sure moves are being done correctly. (While it can be done at home with a DVD, experts recommend beginning with a live instructor to provide feedback and lessen risk of injury.) Individuals who are pregnant, have a hernia or suffer from any joint or back issues should check with their doctor before beginning tai chi to ensure which movements are safe for them.

Summary

Tai chi is a gentle flowing form of physical exercise coupled with mental focus and meditation. It is generally safe for most people and can offer benefits from reduced stress to increased strength, flexibility and balance.

References

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine nccam.nih.gov/health/taichi/introduction.htm

Mayo Clinic mayoclinic.com/health/tai-chi/SA00087

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Natural Health News and Articles

Hawthorn for High Cholesterol

Reviewed & edited by Dr Jeffrey Lederman

Cholesterol is an essential fat needed for the brain and nervous system to function properly. The body’s cell walls, or membranes, need cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat. Manufactured in the liver, cholesterol is also important for the creation of sex hormones.

While each person needs some cholesterol to function properly, high levels may cause health problems. Eating too many cholesterol-laden fats can lead to serious complications like heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications. In cases of high cholesterol, plaque may build up and cause the arterial walls to harden and thicken—a condition known as atherosclerosis. Furthermore, it is important to know that there are different types of cholesterol in the body.

The leaves, berries, and flowers of the hawthorn plant have been used to treat various diseases of the heart and blood vessels, such as chest pain, irregular heartbeat, high and low blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and high cholesteroli.

Due to hawthorn berry’s ability to break down fats, hawthorn is useful in bringing down high cholesterol levels and reducing fat deposits in the bodyii.

Research shows that hawthorn can lower cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides in the blood. In an eight-week study conducted in Australia, patients with abnormal amounts of lipids in the blood were treated with hawthorn fruit. The results of the study showed that, due to hawthorn berry’s ability to simultaneously increase serum levels of HDL cholesterol and decrease the ratios of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, hawthorn may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, hawthorn berries contain a wide range of flavonoids—such as hyperoside, rutin, quercetin, vitexin, epicatechin, catechin, and proanthocyanidins—which gives the berries antioxidant activity and equips them with diverse mechanisms of operationiii.

In addition, hawthorn fruit extract may lower cholesterol by increasing the excretion of bile, reducing the formation of cholesterol, and enhancing the receptors for LDLsiv.

You can chew fresh or dried hawthorn berries daily, or you can take them in capsules or tinctures. Methanol or alcohol extracts of hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers also exist. Common doses used in hawthorn studies range from 160-1800 mg, with the most common doses tested in the range of 600-900 mg per dayv.

To use hawthorn as a natural therapy, consult a herbalist and speak to your local healthcare provider.

Written by Nicole Kagan

References

  • i HAWTHORN: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved August 10, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com/vitaminssupplements/ingredientmono-527-hawthorn.aspx?activeingredientid=527&activeingredientname=hawthorn
  • ii Rost, A. (2009). Homeopathy. Natural healing wisdom & know-how: useful practices, recipes, and formulas for a lifetime of health (p. 106). New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.
  • iii Richards, B. J. (n.d.). Hawthorn for Your Heart. Wellness Resources. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http://www.wellnessresources.com/tips/articles/hawthorn_for_your_heart/
  • iv HAWTHORN: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved August 10, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com/vitaminssupplements/ingredientmono-527-hawthorn.aspx?activeingredientid=527&activeingredientname=hawthorn
  • v Richards, B. J. (n.d.). Hawthorn for Your Heart. Wellness Resources. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http://www.wellnessresources.com/tips/articles/hawthorn_for_your_heart/

Additional references

  • Cholesterol Basics: Types, Risk Factors, Levels, and Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved August 10, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/guide/cholesterol-basics
  • Rosenson, R. (n.d.). Patient information: High cholesterol treatment options (Beyond the Basics). Retrieved August 8, 2014, from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/high-cholesterol-treatment-options-beyond-the-basics
  • Rost, A. (2009). Homeopathy. Natural healing wisdom & know-how: useful practices, recipes, and formulas for a lifetime of health (p. 106). New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.
  • Trivieri, L., & Anderson, J. W. (2002). Gastrointestinal Disorders. Alternative medicine: the definitive guide (2nd ed., p. 718). Berkeley: Celestial Arts.

 

Categories
Natural Health News and Articles

7 Supplements for High Cholesterol

by Dr. Rich Snyder, DO

High cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease. Treatment includes modifying your diet, exercise, and incorporating supplements that normalize cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation.

Here are 7 Supplements to help normalize cholesterol levels.

Garlic:  This is excellent for helping to maintain the cholesterol in the natural or “reduced” state. It decreases the inflammation of “cholesterol plaque.”

  • Aged garlic extract can be taken in capsule form starting at 400-600 mg a day. As garlic is a natural blood thinner, be careful if you are on prescription blood-thinning medications such as aspirin, Plavix, or Coumadin.

Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone): Replacement of this antioxidant is necessary to help improve blood vessel health. This is vital to take, especially if you have been prescribed a statin based medication.

  • When starting, begin with small doses at 50-100 mg daily and increase to twice a day after several weeks. Smaller doses taken during the day maximizes its absorption. Monitor your blood pressure closely. If you have diabetes, this nutrient can also help lower your blood glucose levels so they need to be monitored as well.

Fiber: If your diet is low in fiber, a fiber-based supplement is recommended. Remember that fiber can bind the cholesterol in the intestine and prevent its absorption. Examples of commonly used fiber supplements can include a psyllium-based fiber supplement like Metamucil or more of a soluble-based fiber like Glucomannan fiber.

Omega 3 fish oil:  Omega 3 fish oil can not only help in lowering triglycerides, it is important for maintaining the health and pliability of the blood vessels as well as tremendous for reducing inflammation. You can start at 2000 mg a day and increase slowly to a maximum of 4-5 grams a day. Be aware that Omega 3 fish oil can thin the blood, so you may need to decrease your dosage if you are taking any blood thinners.

TurmericTurmeric is a great anti-oxidant to lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. It can be taken as a 400 mg capsule daily or simply by sprinkling a little Turmeric powder on each meal. It does have a blood thinning effect so be aware if you are on other blood-thinning medications as mentioned above.

Phytosterols: These are plant-based compounds that can be used in the treatment of high cholesterol. They can be taken independently or can be part of other formulations as well. An example of a plant-based sterol is beta-sitosterol. This can be taken once to twice daily, depending on the formulation chosen.

Red Yeast Rice: This is a natural form of the statin medication, and is used by many in the treatment of high cholesterol. There are several caveats when taking this supplement you need to be aware of:

  • Do not take prescription statins if you are taking this supplement.
  • As with the statin medications, liver tests (blood work) need to be monitored and myalgias can occur with this supplement as well.
  • It is recommended to begin at a dose of 600 mg daily and slowly increase over the course of several weeks to a maximum dose of 1200 mg twice a day. You should be under the care of a health care provider when taking this supplement.

For more information on high cholesterol, see Natural Treatment for High Cholesterol



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Natural Health News and Articles

8 Natural Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol

With the side-effects of some cholesterol medications being called into question, here are 8 drug-free alternatives that have been known to lower your or your loved one's cholesterol. Read More

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Treatment

Supplements

We all know how important a varied diet is to our overall health but sometimes even good eating habits can use a little boost. Fortunately that’s where supplements come in.

Supplements exist in a variety of shapes and sizes from pills and powders to beverages and bars. Contents run the gamut from vitamins and minerals to herbs and enzymes to fish oils, probiotics and more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of dietary supplements increased by over ten percent from 42 percent in the late 1980s to mid 1990s to 53 percent by 2003-2006.

How It Works

Different supplements provide different benefits. Folic acid, for example, is important for pregnant women to take as it can lessen the chance of birth defects while calcium and vitamin D can help encourage bone health. Multivitamins which contain at least three vitamins are the most commonly taken supplement though many vitamins and minerals can also be purchased individually.

Supplements are not strictly limited to vitamins and minerals, however. Echinacea is an herb many swear by to help lessen cold symptoms and duration of illness. Fish oil can usually be found in a softgel tablet and may help with heart health. Probiotics may assist in improving digestive issues.

Benefits

Benefits of supplements vary depending on the type and its designated purpose. It is important to note that the best way to meet daily nutritional needs is through a healthy diet featuring a variety of foods. When eating habits fall short, however, supplements can provide a useful nutritional edge.

Precautions

Just because supplements can be purchased over the counter doesn’t mean buyers shouldn’t do their homework. Some can interfere with medications or increase the chance of bleeding.

Many are water soluble with extra amounts simply being excreted but a few exist that are not and can build up in the body to dangerously high levels. In addition, some foods like cereals and breads are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals so beware how much is being ingested through the daily diet before beginning supplementation.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way over-the-counter medications are and are not intended to actually prevent or treat diseases. To ensure the supplement contains what it says it contains (and not harmful contaminants), look for the seals of approval from U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International or ConsumerLab.com.

If in doubt be sure to discuss use of supplements with a medical professional.

Summary

While there is no substitute for a healthy diet, supplements can be useful for a variety of purposes including providing a nutritional benefit and addressing a specific issue like building stronger bones or fighting a cold.

References

  • Dietary Supplements: What you Need to Know from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
    ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/DS_WhatYouNeedToKnow.aspx
  • Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know from the FDA
    fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm109760.htm
Categories
Condition

High Cholesterol Natural Treatments

Written by Dr. Rich Snyder

Cholesterol is a fatty material made by the liver. It is essential for human life. However, cholesterol levels that are very high or cholesterol that is “inflammatory” increases your risk of heart and vascular disease.

High cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease through the formation of a cholesterol plaque over time.

The treatment of high cholesterol includes modifying your diet to a more plant-based one as well as increasing your fiber intake, incorporating supplements that normalize your cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation.

The following provides information on high cholesterol natural treatments.

Overview

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty material made by the liver. It is one of the basic building blocks of the cells in your body. It is a vital component of the cell membrane that helps protect the cell and maintain its integrity and viability. Cholesterol is also important for the production of certain vitamins, such as Vitamins A, D, E, K (called fat–soluble vitamins). It is also needed for hormone production; this includes cortisol and sex-related hormones. We not only produce cholesterol in our bodies, but we also obtain it from the foods that we eat.

Why or when is cholesterol bad?

Cholesterol, in and of itself, is not bad. It is in fact essential for human life. However, cholesterol levels that are very high or cholesterol that is “inflammatory” increases your risk of heart and vascular disease. High cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease through the formation of a cholesterol plaque over time as pictured above.

Are there different ways of looking at cholesterol?

When taking a holistic view of cholesterol, there are three different aspects that need to be considered:

  • Recognizing the different types of cholesterol
  • Understanding the nature of the cholesterol molecule itself: is the molecule small and dense (increased inflammation risk) or light and fluffy (negligible inflammation risk)
  • Recognizing that cholesterol can exist in an oxidized state or a natural/reduced state
  • It is important that you and your healthcare provider review all of these factors when looking at your cholesterol levels.

What are the different types of cholesterol?

  • The HDL, or High Density Lipoprotein, is called the “good cholesterol.” In general, the higher the HDL levels, the better.
  • LDL, or Low Density Lipoprotein, is considered to be the “bad cholesterol.” In general, it is thought that the lower the LDL levels, the better in terms of reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Triglycerides are another form of fat that is in the bloodstream. Very high levels, which can be seen with diabetes and alcohol abuse, are a risk factor for heart disease.
  • VLDL, or Very Low Density Lipoprotein, is a form of cholesterol that is also helpful in determining your heart risk. In general, the higher this number, the higher your risk of heart disease.

What do you mean by the nature of the cholesterol molecule and inflammation?

A number does not tell the whole story when it comes to cholesterol levels and determining their risk for heart and vascular disease. If you look at LDL, for example, there can be small dense particles which are thought to be more of a risk for the formation of a plaque or atherosclerosis in comparison to the larger fluffy and light particles which are non-inflammatory.

Inflammation also refers to whether the cholesterol is in a natural or “reduced” state or “oxidized” or inflammatory state. Be aware that all of the cells in our body exist in a natural or reduced state. In the setting of chronic inflammation, the cells become oxidized. This generates the formation of free radicals. This also changes the nature of the cholesterol in the cells, particularly the blood vessels, and causes them to be more inflammatory and hence, more likely to form a cholesterol plaque.

How do I know if I have high cholesterol?

There are ways to measure cholesterol numbers in the blood as well as more specialized blood testing to tell you the nature of the cholesterol profile.

  • On traditional blood work, the LDL, HDL and triglycerides levels are part of a standard lipid profile.
  • If your LDL is > 160 and you have heart disease or you have several risk factors for heart disease, this is considered to be a high number.
  • If your HDL number is < 40, it is considered to be too low.  Lower levels of HDL are risk factors for heart disease.
  • Triglyceride levels > 150 are considered to be high.

How do I know if I have abnormal cholesterol?

This is again looking not just at the number, but also inflammatory risk for cholesterol.

  • On a regular lipid profile, additional testing, including looking for certain markers such as apolipoprotein B and lipoprotein A levels, are important markers for how “atherogenic” the cholesterol particles may be.
  • There is a specialized test called the VAP or Vertical Auto Profile test that can tell you the nature of the LDL or HDL molecules that you have. If, for example, the VAP test reports that your cholesterol is larger and fluffier in nature, they are less likely to be inflammatory with lesser risk for inflammation. This is an example of a personalized test that can really help you to determine your risk for heart disease.
  • Your healthcare provider should also test for “inflammation.” In particular, blood tests, including the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and high sensitivity C-reactive protein need to be checked. The higher the level, the more likely the cholesterol is inflammatory and increases the risk of plaque formation and heart disease.

What are conventional treatments of high cholesterol?

The traditional treatment of high cholesterol levels includes the prescription use of medications. Commonly prescribed drug classes of medications used to lower cholesterol include the statins, Zetia (Ezetimibe), bile-acid resins, and Niacin.

Statins: These are medications that inhibit the formation of cholesterol. Studies have demonstrated that this class of medications has decreased the risk of heart attacks and is heart-protective for someone with risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Potential side effects of this class of medications include elevated liver enzymes (as can be measured in the blood), muscle pain or myalgias. It may also affect memory and may cause memory problemsCaution: Statins can deplete the body of ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10), a potent anti-oxidant that is important not only for maintaining a healthy heartbut also for maintaining cellular health.

  • Supplementation with ubiquinone is recommended when taking this class of medications.
  • Ubiquinone can also decrease the risk of developing myalgias when taking statins and can also help in the treatment of myalgias once they begin.

Zetia (Ezetimibe): This medication blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. It can be prescribed to be used in conjunction with statin therapy for the treatment of high cholesterolCaution: Because this class of medications inhibits cholesterol absorption, it can also affect the absorption of key fat-soluble vitamins, including Vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Bile acid resins: This medication also is used to block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. It can also affect the absorption of key fat-soluble vitamins, including Vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Niacin: This is used in the treatment of low HDL to raise their levels. This medication has been known to cause flushing as a side effect and aspirin is often needed to be given prior to taking a dose of Niacin. There are extended release forms of Niacin that do not have this effect.

Fenofibrate: This class of medication is used to treat high triglyceride levels. They have similar side effects to the statin class of medications, including affecting the liver and causing myalgias. Caution: If a statin and fenofibrate are taken together, this can dramatically increase the risk of developing liver problems and significant muscle pain and muscle damage. In some cases, the muscle damage can be significant enough to cause kidney failure.

Nutrition

DASH Diet

One of the most important changes necessary in the treatment of abnormal cholesterol is changing your diet.  A diet higher in fruits and vegetables is recommended. Did you know that the new Food Pyramid recommends five to seven fruits and vegetables each and every day? One of the well-studied diets is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The DASH diet not only lowered blood pressure, the risk of developing other complications of high blood pressure and diabetes, it also helped in lowering cholesterol.

This diet advocates the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It emphasizes reducing foods high in polyunsaturated fats as well as significantly reducing the amount of meat-based protein in the diet. Notwithstanding the chemicals, toxins, food additives, antibiotics that may have been used in the preparation of the meat, high animal protein intake increases total body inflammation, which plays an important role in the development of high cholesterol.

Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet

Another diet that has been extensively studied in the treatment of high cholesterol is the Mediterranean diet. Like the DASH diet, this diet stresses the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats, particularly promoting the use of olive oil over butter. Eating fish, especially salmon twice a week is recommended for its high Omega 3 content. Much research has been done advocating the many benefits of the Mediterranean diet, especially for its heart protective effects.

The basic conclusion that can be drawn is that a plant-based diet can reduce not only your inflammation levels, but also can help normalize your cholesterol levels.

Supplements

Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone)

Replacement of this antioxidant is necessary to help improve blood vessel health. This is vital to take, especially if you have been prescribed a statin-based medication.

  • When starting, begin with small doses at 50-100 mg daily and increase to twice a day after several weeks. Smaller doses taken during the day maximizes its absorption. Monitor your blood pressure closely. If you have diabetes, this nutrient can also help lower your blood glucose levels so they need to be monitored as well.

Fiber

If your diet is low in fiber, a fiber-based supplement is recommended. Remember that fiber can bind the cholesterol in the intestine and prevent its absorption. Examples of commonly used fiber supplements can include a psyllium-based fiber supplement like Metamucil or more of a soluble-based fiber like Glucomannan fiber.

Garlic

This is excellent for helping to maintain the cholesterol in the natural or “reduced” state. It decreases the inflammation of “cholesterol plaque.”

  • Aged garlic extract can be taken in capsule form starting at 400-600 mg a day. As garlic is a natural blood thinner, be careful if you are on prescription blood-thinning medications such as aspirin, Plavix, or Coumadin.

Fish OilOmega 3 fish oil

Omega 3 fish oil can not only help in lowering triglycerides, it is important for maintaining the health and pliability of the blood vessels as well as tremendous for reducing inflammation. You can start at 2000 mg a day and increase slowly to a maximum of 4-5 grams a day. Be aware that Omega 3 fish oil can thin the blood, so you may need to decrease your dosage if you are taking any blood thinners.

Phytosterols

These are plant-based compounds that can be used in the treatment of high cholesterol. They can be taken independently or can be part of other formulations as well. An example of a plant-based sterol is beta-sitosterol. This can be taken once to twice daily, depending on the formulation chosen.

Red Yeast Rice

This is a natural form of the statin medications, and is used by many in the treatment of high cholesterol. There are several caveats when taking this supplement you need to be aware of:

  • Do not take prescription statins if you are taking this supplement.
  • As with the statin medications, liver tests (blood work) need to be monitoredand myalgias can occur with this supplement as well.
  • It is recommended to begin at a dose of 600 mg daily and slowly increase over the course of several weeks to a maximum dose of 1200 mg twice a day. You should be under the care of a health care provider when taking this supplement.

TurmericTurmeric

Turmeric is a great anti-oxidant to lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. It can be taken as a 400 mg capsule daily or simply by sprinkling a little Turmeric powder on each meal. It does have a blood thinning effect so be aware if you are on other blood-thinning medications as mentioned above.

Exercise

Our bodies were meant to move. Beginning an exercise regimen is crucial  to help in lowering cholesterol levels.

Walking thirty minutes four times a week has benefits of not only improving endurance, but also strengthening the heart as well as helping you lose weight. Other forms of exercise include jogging, biking, swimming and aquatic-based therapy.

Yoga for High CholesterolExercising in the water is not only rejuvenating, but as it reduces the wear, tear, and constant pounding on the joints, it is an ideal choice, especially if you are suffering from arthritis or have difficult y walking. Depending on your health issues, it is recommended that you see your health care practitioner to develop a personalized exercise regimen that matches your likes and limitations. Don’t forget to include muscle resistance training into your exercise regimen.

Yoga and tai chi represent a form of exercise that improves muscle strength and flexibility and does not require the use of expensive equipment. As mentioned above, they are great forms of exercise that can help improve cholesterol levels.

Updated: June 2019


  • Chung YH, Lee YC et al. “Statins of high versus low cholesterol-lowering efficacy and the development of severe renal failure.” Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. 2013 Mar 22.
  • Cicero AF, Ferroni A et al.  “Tolerability and safety of commonly used dietary supplements and nutraceuticals with lipid-lowering effects.” Expert Opinion on Drug Safety. 2012 Sep;11(5):753-66.
  • Roth EM, Harris WS. “Fish oil for primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease.” Current Atherosclerosis Reports. 2010 Jan;12(1):66-72.
  • Srinivasan K. “Dietary spices as beneficial modulators of lipid profile in conditions of metabolic disorders and diseases.” Food and Function. 2013 Apr 25;4(4):503-21.
  • Stone NJ, Bilek S, et al. “Recent National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III update: adjustments and options.” American Journal of Cardiology. 2005 Aug 22;96(4A):53E-59E.