A third of the American population suffers from elevated cholesterol levels beyond what’s considered a “healthy” range.
According to many studies (including several from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), people with high LDL + HDL cholesterol have approximately double the risk for heart disease compared to people with ideal levels. But less than 50% of adults with high LDL cholesterol are getting any treatment to address their dyslipidemia and thus reduce their cardiovascular risk.
Typically, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol or high triglycerides) is a result of both genetic factors and lifestyle habits – such as consuming too many highly-processed foods and insufficient exercise. Lifestyle changes should be the primary approach to bring lipids into a normal range and prevent further complications:
- Lowering systemic inflammation
- Changing your diet, along with regular exercise
- Reducing physical and emotional stress with meditation, better sleep and diet
While lipid-lowering drugs (such as statins) have been prescribed to millions of adults, they are oftentimes not a good treatment option given potentially serious side effects.
If you are concerned about your cardiovascular risk due to elevated lipid levels, we invite you to schedule a complimentary phone consultation to explore your best next steps. If other treatment approaches have failed to address your dyslipidemia, you might need prescription medications to prevent disease progression, especially coronary heart disease.
Definition Of Dyslipidemia
Dyslipidemia, sometimes also referred to as hyperlipidemia, is characterized as an elevation of plasma cholesterol, triglycerides (TGs), or both, or a low high-density lipoprotein level – and is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The most common type of dyslipidemia is due to high LDL (also called “bad cholesterol”) levels, which is sometimes genetically inherited. But most frequently, it is a consequence of unhealthy eating habits and other diseases. Low levels of HDL “good cholesterol“ along with high levels of triglycerides have similar root causes compared to high LDL cholesterol (namely genetics, poor diet, and obesity).
The underlying issue resulting in dyslipidemia is abnormal lipid metabolism:
- Lipid metabolism is essential for survival, and lipids are involved in many critical functions such as energy storage, creating cellular structures, production of hormones & steroids, supporting brain function, and promoting the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Lipid absorption occurs when fats are consumed from the diet, followed by breakdown in the liver and in adipose tissue. Both of these processes are regulated by changes in glucose, insulin and glucagon hormones.
- Thus, eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet that has a balance of fatty acids is so important for resolving dyslipidimia.
Dyslipidemia – Conventional Treatment Approaches
The goal of treating dyslipidemia is to avoid other diseases such as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), acute coronary syndromes, stroke, transient ischemic attack, or peripheral arterial disease.
Treatments for dyslipidemia will typically start with significant lifestyle changes — such as dietary changes and increasing exercise — sometimes along with taking several drugs to treat very high cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
The American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend using drug treatment for certain groups of patients who are at especially high risk including prescription drugs such as statins, bile acid sequestrants, ezetimibe, niacin, fibrates, or omega-3 fatty acids.
Natural Approaches To Addressing Dyslipidemia
At Joanne Sumpio Hinson MD PLLC, we favor lifestyle modifications and natural approaches:
Dietary intervention is usually the primary approach for patients with dyslipidemia. Some physicians will also suggest for overweight or obese patients to lose weight in a gradual, healthy way.
- Eliminate refined vegetable oils commonly found in potato chips and other snacks, cookies and treats
- Increase intake of fiber from high-fiber foods such as leafy green veggies, beans and legumes, artichokes, chia and flax seeds, nuts like almonds and walnuts, squash and avocados.
- Swap out processed carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates (such as ancient whole grains, whole fruit, beans, legumes and starchy vegetables)
- Abstain from foods and drinks with concentrated sugar and alcohol (for example soda and soft drinks, packaged desserts, and sweetened dairy products
- Consume fish a few times per week to increase omega-3 fatty acid intake (like wild salmon, herring, sardines, trout, halibut or tuna.
- Maintain your body weight based on your height and build.
Appropriate Amount Of Exercise
To reduce systemic inflammation, regulating hormones and get to a healthier weight, we recommend regular physical activity. Regular exercise can lower high LDL cholesterol in some people and also helps maintain ideal body weight.
Limit Alcohol & Tobacco
Smoking and consuming high amounts of alcohol can contribute to chronic inflammation and many other health problems (for example diabetes, liver or kidney problems).
- Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties that may prevent problems such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- CoQ10 may help regulate blood pressure
- Garlic can normalize blood pressure levels
- Alpha Lipoic acid offers protection against LDL oxidation and hypertension and assists with recycling other antioxidants in the body (such as vitamins C, E and glutathione).
- Fiber supplements such as psyllium husks help lower cholesterol levels and protect the heart, while also improve digestion and regularity