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Knowing the facts about cholesterol may moderate your risk for a heart attack or stroke. But understanding what cholesterol is and how it affects your health is just as important. You may be surprised to know that cholesterol itself isn’t all bad. In fact, cholesterol is just one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy. Cholesterol comes from two sources.

Let’s test your knowledge of cholesterol. Here’s a short quiz, see how you do. Then we’ll get on with the article.


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So how did you do on the quiz?




Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream by attaching to certain proteins. This combination is called a lipoprotein. There are four different types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the blood:

  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol”
  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol”
  • Chylomicrons, which carry very little cholesterol, but a lot of another fat called triglycerides.
  • Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), which are very bad forms of cholesterol.

It’s important to understand the difference, and to know the levels of “good” and “bad” cholesterol in your blood. Too much of one type, or not enough of another, can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or even stroke.

The “Bad”

Let’s start with the “bad” cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as “bad” cholesterol. When too much of it circulates in the blood, it can clog arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. LDL is produced naturally in the body, but many of us inherit genes from family members that can cause it to produce too much. Poor dietary habits that include saturated fats and trans-fats also increase your LDL.

The “Good”

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as “good” cholesterol. Roughly 25 – 33% of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL. High levels of HDL are believed to protect us against heart attacks. Studies have shown that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver and that it also removes excess cholesterol from the plaque, thus slowing the buildup.

One More…

Triglycerides are a form of fat manufactured in the body. Elevated levels can be due to excess weight/obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet rich in fats. People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high LDL (bad) level and a low HDL (good) level. Many people with heart disease and/or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.

The “Very Bad”

Like the other lipoproteins, VLDL is made up of cholesterol and protein. The big difference is that VLDL also contains triglycerides. Your liver makes VLDL to help carry triglycerides to other parts of your body. After VLDL drops off the triglycerides to where they need to go, the cholesterol and protein left over are used to make LDL cholesterol and small lipoproteins called “remnants.” These small remnants seem to act like “bad” LDL cholesterol and may build up in the walls of your arteries to make them harder and less flexible. Just like “bad” LDL cholesterol, this process may take place over time and can lead to serious medical conditions. This is why some scientists think that VLDL may play a part in your risk for getting heart disease.

So What Do We Do?

The good news is that high cholesterol is probably one of the most modifiable risk factors when it comes to heart disease. Supplements of Fish Oil and Red Yeast Rice, coupled with lifestyle changes in diet and exercise habits, can reduce cholesterol as much as standard cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins, according to numerous studies. A recent study by Dr. David Becker, MD, a cardiologist at Chestnut Hill Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania Health System has shown real promise in the alternative approach to lowering cholesterol.

A Study

Dr. Becker and his colleagues studied 74 people with high cholesterol. Half of the group took the statin drug Zocor and the other half took Red Yeast Rice and Fish Oil supplements. They were followed for 12 weeks. The medication group took 40 milligrams of Zocor daily and received traditional counseling in the form of handouts on diet and exercise. The supplement group took three fish oil capsules twice daily. In addition, those with higher LDL levels took red yeast rice daily. The supplement group also attended weekly meetings and was taught about lifestyle changes by a cardiologist and a dietitian. “We followed them for a three-month period,” Becker says. At the study’s end, the levels of bad cholesterol had declined nearly the same amount in both groups. “The LDL declined 42% in the supplement group and 39% in the Zocor group,” Becker says. The supplement group also lost an average of 10 pounds in 12 weeks, but there was no significant weight loss in the medication group. Triglyceride levels, while on average normal in both groups at the start, decreased by 29% in the supplement group but just 9.3% in the medication group — a significant difference, Becker says.

The study was funded by the state of Pennsylvania and is published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Note that we have given you all the science behind cholesterol; let’s talk about the supplements that can help fight the concerns high levels can cause.

Supplements that Help

Red Yeast Rice – Red yeast rice is the product of yeast grown on rice, and is served as a dietary staple in some Asian countries. It contains several compounds collectively known as monacolins, substances known to inhibit cholesterol production. A recent study at the UCLA School of Medicine conducted a study involving 83 people with high cholesterol levels. Those who received red yeast rice over a 12-week period experienced a significant reduction in total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. In another 8-week trial involving 446 people with high cholesterol levels, those who received red yeast rice experienced a significant drop in cholesterol levels compared to those who received placebo. Total cholesterol fell by 22.7%, LDL by 31%, and triglycerides by 34% in the red yeast rice group. HDL cholesterol increased by 20% in the red yeast rice group as well.

Omega-3 Fish Oil – Fish oil has been studied for a lot of things, and the fish oil and heart disease improvement connection is one of the most studied areas of all. In fact, both the American Heart Association and Food and Drug Administration have made statements about the potential benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Fish oils are the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids because they supply both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) directly, while plant sources of Omega-3 fatty acids such as flaxseed do not.

Evidence from several studies has suggested that amounts of DHA and EPA from fish oil supplements lowers triglycerides, slows the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques (hardening of the arteries), lowers blood pressure, as well as reduces the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes in people with known heart disease. While there is no such thing as a “magic pill”, Omega-3 Fish Oil is as close as you can get.

In Summary

Don’t take chances with your health. Even if you feel 100%, the fact that there is scientific information touting the benefits these products have on your health should be reason enough to take the extra steps and take care of yourself. Benjamin Franklin said it best when he stated that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

If cholesterol is an issue for you, start today and get on the right track. Get your Red Yeast Rice and Omega-3 800 Fish Oil and put your cholesterol issue behind you.

Don’t wait, visit one of our stores, call, or go to the web store and act now!

Copyright(c) 2009 Ask the Pharmacist Group. All rights reserved.