Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
HIGH BLOOD CHOLESTEROL, OR hypercholesterolemia, is a condition in which elevated levels of cholesterol are present in the blood. It is not a disease but a metabolic dysfunction, which means that it can contribute to many other serious diseases - most notably by affecting the heart and cardiovascular system, resulting in conditions including angina, heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). There are two types of cholesterol: high density lipoprotein (HDL), the good cholesterol that protects against heart disease, and low density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol that contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries. Although there are no outward symptoms of elevated cholesterol, it slowly clogs up the arteries and its impact can be devastating over time. Aside from a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, the most common causes of elevated cholesterol are diet and lifestyle.
Chinese medicine recognizes that diet and emotions play a key role in high cholesterol. Cholesterol is viewed as a result of the accumulation of dampness and mucus as a result of impaired function of the digestive system, most notably of the spleen, stomach, liver, and pancreas. Western medicine similarly recognizes that cholesterol is either consumed and absorbed through the digestive tract or produced by the liver. Metabolic and hormonal conditions like diabetes and menopause can also contribute to elevated cholesterol levels. With a correct diagnosis and treatment with acupuncture, herbs, diet, and exercise, I’ve helped many patients reduce their blood cholesterol levels.
A woman recently came in with a cholesterol reading of 405. Her HDL was 56, her LDL was 349, and her triglyceride reading was 312. She was forty-eight years old and experiencing menopausal symptoms- she had missed her period for the previous four months and had gained weight around her belly. Upon close examination, she also showed signs of insulin resistance. Her cells were not responding to insulin, thereby allowing glucose to build up in her blood, and much of it was converted to fat storage in her belly. I called her internist and we put together a comprehensive program including a high-fiber and low-cholesterol diet, daily cardiovascular exercise, and acupuncture and herbal therapies to balance her digestive and hormonal functions. She agreed to go on statin drugs, which block cholesterol production by the liver, for two months. She had an ultrasound taken of the carotid arteries in her neck and a calcium plaque scoring CT scan of her heart to see if any plaque had built up. To her relief, both scans were clear.
After two months her cholesterol dropped to 252 and her HDL/LDL/triglyceride levels improved, although they weren’t yet in normal range. However, the level of liver enzymes in her blood was rising- a potential side effect of the statin drug- so her internist took her off the drug. We continued with the dietary and lifestyle regimen and the Eastern medical therapies. Three months later, her cholesterol had dropped to 178 with the HDL at 97 and LDL at 81. As a nice bonus, her period came back and she lost twenty-three pounds. She has remained off the medication and continues to be vigilant about diet and exercise. Here are some of my favorite home remedies to help lower cholesterol and maintain good cardiovascular health. Always work with your physician to formulate a holistic program for healthy cholesterol.
DIET FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL
HOME REMEDIES FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL
HERBAL THERAPY FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation. To learn more about the herbs listed here, go to www.askdrmao.com.
EXERCISE FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL
Physical exercise is essential for promoting circulation and strengthening heart function. Sedentary life inhibits circulation. A good way to reduce cholesterol and to stimulate circulation is to do moderate cardiovascular exercise every day for at least 30 minutes.
I suggest walking briskly (3 to 4 miles per hour), general calisthenics, racket sports such as table tennis, swimming (with moderate effort), cycling (at a moderate speed of 10 miles per hour or less), canoeing, or rowing (at a speed of about 2 to 4 miles per hour).
I also recommend a simple walking exercise called Merry-Go-Around Circle Walk for people with health conditions that preclude them from exercising vigorously.
SELF ACUPRESSURE FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL
Apply moderate pressure with your right thumb until you feel soreness.
Hold for 5 minutes. Repeat on the left leg. This is traditionally used to improve digestion and the metabolism of fats.
HIGH CHOLESTEROL: WHAT TO AVOID
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni