Guest Column: Statins

What can you do to improve your cholesterol level besides taking drugs? You have a spectrum of choices. Here are some proven approaches:

1: Begin by making moderate changes in your diet; if that's not enough to lower your cholesterol level sufficiently, you can make progressively bigger changes until it does.

2: Eat less saturated fat, found predominantly in animal products such as red meat, butter and cream, and in tropical oils.

3: Cut back on trans-fatty acids, found in most fried foods and processed foods, such as cakes, cookies and snack foods. If the label says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, then avoid it.

4: Limit your intake of simple carbohydrates, like sugar, white flour, white rice and high-fructose corn syrup, which can markedly increase your triglycerides.

5: Eat more unrefined, complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products.

6: Exercise, which can lower your bad LDL cholesterol as well as raise your good HDL cholesterol.

7: Meditate, or practice yoga or tai chi. Stress can raise your cholesterol level independent of diet, whereas stress-management techniques may help lower it.

8: Lose weight, which will also help lower your cholesterol level as well as your blood-sugar level.

9: Niacin is a B vitamin that is often given at much higher doses to effectively lower cholesterol. Take it under a doctor's supervision, as niacin may cause flushing and even liver toxicity in some patients.

10: Take three grams grams per day of fish oil, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. These may reduce your risk of sudden cardiac death by up to 80 percent and may signifcantly lower your triides and reduce inflammation.

11: Add soluble fiber (found in such foods as oat bran) to your diet, which binds cholesterol in the intestinal tract and increases its elimination from the body.

12: Red yeast rice extract contains the same ingredient found in statin drugs. Its best to take this under a doctor's supervision given the potential side effects.

13: Curcumin is the active ingredient of the Indian curry spice turmeric. It may reduce cholesterol by interfering with intestinal cholesterol uptake and has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially when taken in combination with vitamin E.

14: Beta-sitosterol, found in some new margarines, is a plant sterol that may block absorption of cholesterol.

15: Pantethine is formed in your body from panacid, a B vitamin. Pantethine may effectively lower cholesterol levels with few side effects.