If you’re one of the 78 million Americans living with unhealthy cholesterol levels, you’ve probably either taken or had a doctor recommend taking statins.
Statins can be a lifesaver for people with cholesterol-related cardiovascular diseases.
Without addressing the root causes of high cholesterol, however, some individuals stay on statins and high blood pressure medication for the rest of their lives.
Here’s a little secret: By adopting a balanced lifestyle and embracing natural statin alternatives, you can lower your cholesterol levels and avoid this dangerous side effect.
Cholesterol facts and statistics
If you have high cholesterol, you aren’t alone.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 37% of American adults have cholesterol levels that warrant medication like statins.
White women and Hispanic men are the most at risk, but no ethnic group is entirely immune. Even 7% of children and teens have unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Only slightly more than half of people in the US with high cholesterol are currently taking medication for their condition.
This is either good or bad depending on how you look at it.
On one hand, this could imply people are avoiding medication and instead opting to change their lifestyle through healthy diet and exercise. On the other hand, it could mean people either do not have access to the medication they need or are simply not taking it.
Facts about statins and the statin side effect you need to know
Stains block a special enzyme in your liver responsible for producing cholesterol. Without this enzyme, cholesterol never gets into your bloodstream which lowers your body’s levels.
Every cell in your body needs cholesterol to function properly. You’ve probably heard about “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
- LDL is the “bad” cholesterol because it can build up throughout your arteries and cause blockage which leads to heart disease.
- HDL, on the other hand, helps to reduce your LDL levels.
Statins can both reduce LDL and increase HDL to help you achieve balanced cholesterol levels. No cholesterol medication is unique. In fact, there are several different types of statins. You may recognize their brand names: Lipitor, Crestor, Lescol, and Zocor.
Statin side effects
Like any medication, statins don’t come without their side effects. Some common side effects may include:
- Muscle pain
Other side effects aren’t quite as benign. The most devastating statin side effect is rhabdomyolysis which can lead to kidney failure.
This statin side effect begins as muscle pain. Later, it destroys muscle tissue, triggers kidney failure, and eventually leads to death.
Statins also interact with a broad range of other drugs and supplements. These substances can sometimes render statins inactive or have the opposite effect which can trigger muscle breakdown.
Natural alternative to statins
Since environmental conditions usually trigger unhealthy cholesterol levels, to begin with, that means you can lower your cholesterol through lifestyle changes.
Fortunately, nature gives you plenty of solutions to choose from.
1. Red yeast rice
Red yeast rice is a powerful herb utilized throughout Chinese medicine for centuries. It contains several properties such as monacolin K that work very similarly to statins in the bloodstream.
Most doctors actually recommend avoiding red yeast extract while taking statins due to their similar effects.
2. Fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats from fish help reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and supports a healthy heart. Oily fish like salmon, herring and sardines contain the most omega-3.
Don’t go cheap when it comes to fish oil unless you enjoy burping up fish all day.
3. Mediterranean diet
With this diet, you’ll never even feel like you’re dieting. The Mediterranean diet is filled with healthy fats from lean meats and olive oil. It also includes heart healthy and high fiber oatmeal, legumes, and grains.
The goal is to reduce your red meat, dairy, sugar, and salt intake. By eating the right fats, you can achieve healthy cholesterol levels without medication.
4. Other honorable mentions
Several other foods and substances may help balance your cholesterol levels when incorporated into a healthy lifestyle including:
- Green tea
- Grape seed extract
Make sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new diet or supplement routine. Many herbs and foods can interact with statins and other medications. Don’t stop taking your medication unless approved by your doctor.
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