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Nutrition & Dieting/High Cholesterol and Triglycerides - Natural Remedy?

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QUESTION: HI,

I am a 40 year old male. I look after myself with regular exercise (weightlifting - and am muscular), good diet and supplements.

Recently I saw the Doctor for a check up (it had been a good while since last check up) and I had some blood work done.

To cut a long story short, my cholesterol is really high, my triglyceride level is through the roof and my testosterone level is low. My dad has really high cholesterol, so there is a genetic link I guess. With my good health, I am shocked on the results and don't know what to do about it. Below are the results;

Testosterone Level
7.6 nmol/l
2.19 ng/ml
219 ng/dl

Cholesterol Level
8.8 mmol/l
339.7683397683398 mg/dL

Triglyceride
7.8 mmol/l
301.1583011583012 mg/dL

eGFR - >90 ( Reference Range - >59 )

I have been advised that I need to take action or I am a candidate for an early heart attack. I would like to give a natural remedy a try first and if that does not improve things next time I have my blood work done, then I will have to look at Statin type drugs (yuck)...

Can you please make any suggestions?

Thank you for your time and assistance.

ANSWER: Hello Steve,

I'm sorry to hear of your findings.
I must first offer 2 disclaimers: one, I'm personally not familiar with normal testosterone levels or what effects this has on cholesterol and triglycerides, so you would have to get another expert's feedback on that.
And two, we are not able to give specific nutrition recommendations to individuals over the internet. We must meet with a person and review all his labs, medical history, and have a prescription from the MD to do so.

That said, I can offer you some general information you might find helpful:

Your cholesterol level is elevated as in the US we like it to be below 200 mg/dL. We also do further testing to find what portion of the cholesterol level is HDL (High-density lipoproteins, which have a protective effect) and what portion is LDL (this is the 'bad' cholesterol and should be <130 mg/dL). This can show whether you also have low HDL which may also need to be treated. Then a ratio is assigned based on the numbers of the separate portions of the total cholesterol and this indicates a risk of heart disease.

It's not uncommon to find a hereditary component when people have high cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels.

We also want to make certain that triglyceride tests are drawn after fasting for 12 hours. If a person just had breakfast, some fats circulating in the blood can show up and falsely elevate the true level.

As you probably know, high cholesterol levels are associated with coronary artery disease. One natural treatment is increasing soluble fiber in the diet. You may have heard of studies where people consume oat bran or oat fiber. It actually takes quite a bit of oats to affect a change, so one would have to have hot oatmeal, or cold oat cereal or low-fat bran muffins several times per day. Another agent is psyllium husk, found in the over-the-counter fiber supplement, metamucil. Taking the maximum recommended dose (3 servings daily) can lower cholesterol levels by several points. These types of fiber bind to bile in the large intestine and excrete it; normally bile--a compound that helps digest fat-- is reabsorbed and it is made from cholesterol. So constantly re-circulating bile keeps cholesterol in the body; soluble fibers help excrete it.

People are also advised to lose weight if they are overweight, and to maintain a healthy weight and exercise level. Exercise helps raise HDL (good cholesterol). Conversely, being overweight maintains higher circulating levels of triglycerides.

You may not know that high triglyceride levels can have harmful consequences; they can build up and cause an inflammatory condition called pancreatitis. This inflammation of the pancreas is quite painful and usually treated with a hospital stay and nothing to eat or drink until the situation resolves (usually in a few days). Damage may occur to the pancreas with repeated episodes.

Factors that elevate triglycerides include being overweight, eating sweets, consuming alcoholic beverages, and even drinking too much fruit juice.
Some people use fish oil supplements to lower their triglyceride level. However, one should always check with their physician before self-prescribing even seemingly harmless supplements; fish oil in excess can thin the blood and lead to stroke.

The bottom line is, it would be most helpful to find a local dietitian in your area, or speak to a physician who is knowledgeable in nutrition and health. There are a few natural paths to try, but it would be unwise to treat yourself without input from a local health professional who knows you inside and out!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Laurie,

Thanks for the quick reply. I will be sure to take a look at some of your suggestions and run them past my Doctor. My Doctor already mentioned that I could try taking 4-5 grams of fish oil a day and see if this does anything. It sounds like my Doctor is reasonably open-minded to more than just pharmaceutical drugs.

The blood tests done were done in the fasted state (12 - 13 hours without food). I am quite muscular, so weight is not an issue for me. I generally watch what I eat as well (avoid fast foods etc).

With this situation, I am working with my Doctor and will be getting some more blood work done in a couple of months. I am really hoping to try some natural methods first and see if this improves my situation. If not, I think the Doc will place me on some Statin drugs.

I went through the results again and here is a little more information. The Pathologist provided results from some blood work I had done in 2004 and 2005. It is alarming to compare my cholesterol and triglyceride levels to what it is now;

2004 -
Cholesterol   -   5.5 mmol/L   ( Reference Range - 3.9 - 5.5 )
Triglyceride   -   2.0 mmol/L   ( Reference Range - 0.6 - 2.0 )
HDL   -   1.1 mmol/L   ( Reference Range - 0.9 - 1.50 )
LDL   -   3.5 mmol/L   ( Reference Range - 0.0 - 4.0 )
Chol / HDL Ratio   -   5.0   ( Reference Range - 0.0 - 4.5 )

2005 -
Cholesterol   -   5.2 mmol/L   ( Reference Range - 3.9 - 5.5 )
Triglyceride   -   2.3 mmol/L   ( Reference Range - 0.6 - 2.0 )
HDL   -   1.2 mmol/L   ( Reference Range - 0.9 - 1.50 )
LDL   -   2.9 mmol/L   ( Reference Range - 0.0 - 4.0 )
Chol / HDL Ratio   -   4.3   ( Reference Range - 0.0 - 4.5 )

So in 10 years, my cholesterol and triglyceride levels have shot up through the roof. I just don't get it. I have exercised consistently the past 6-7 years and my diet has been very good for the past 4-5 years.

I supplement with iodine, C, D3, A, K2, Krill Oil, Ashwaganda, Seaweed extract, resveratrol, curcumin, quercetin, copper, zinc, selenium, tocomin, magnesium.

Answer
Yes, sometimes these things change with age! Alarming, but not much we can do about that.

Check this website: I have heard recommendations for 1-2 grams per day of fish oil supplements. You are already taking Krill oil, so be sure your doctor knows about that, as well as how often you consume fatty fish, before he tells you how much fish oil to try.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/993.html

You might also check to see what side effects are possible from your multitude of supplements. Vitamin D is also a component of cholesterol--I don't really know if vitamin D supplements might possibly affect blood cholesterol levels in a negative way. It does not appear to help lower cholesterol levels in studies.

Even if you are muscular, you haven't mentioned your height and weight. Any weight gain over the past 10 years? It usually happens! And again, something people don't usually think of, that drinking a lot of fruit juice--even though it's a 'healthy' food--can affect triglyceride levels.

Another prescription often used to treat cholesterol levels is Niacin, a B vitamin, although it is given in what is considered a pharmaceutical dose. You might be more comfortable with giving that a try and see what your doctor thinks: It might be necessary to obtain a prescription (it is here in the states) as it is different than just taking B supplement pills.

And I'm not aware of any contraindications to taking metamucil. It helps regulate bowel movements and provides added fiber which is shown to prevent several chronic diseases. So, again, that could help. I've heard of people lowering their cholesterol by 30 points after several weeks on metamucil.

And, finally, you might look into the Pritikin Diet which is extremely low in animal fat. There is actually a Pritikin Institute in the states where people go as a last resort to heart bypass surgery. Following a diet very low in animal products has reversed arterial plaque to extreme states. Run that by your physician as well.

Stay in touch and let me know what you're trying and what's working for you.
There is also a book called "The six week cholesterol cure" which is probably 25 years old by now, but might have some other ideas before you have to go on meds :)

Laurie

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Laurie Beebe, MS, RD, LD

Expertise

As a registered dietitian (RD)I am fully qualified to accurately answer questions regarding weight loss, including those from people with health conditions requiring dietary restrictions (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc) who want to lose weight, or who have been advised to do so by their physician.

Experience

I have been a registered dietitian for over 30 years and have a certificate in Adult Weight Management through the commission on dietetic registration at Level 1 and Level 2. I am also trained in coaching through Coach U and currently work as a diet coach to help people lose weight the healthy way, through gradual habit changes.

Organizations
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Weight Management Dietetic Practice Group, Nutrition Entreprenuers, St.Louis International Coach Federation, Toastmasters

Publications
Livestrong.com, Glamour.com, Ezinearticles.com, Ehow.com, Today's Dietitian

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Health Science from the University of Florida, 1983; Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University 1985; Certificate in Adult Weight Management 2006; CoachU core essentials grad 2007; Level 2 certificate in Adult Weight Management 2010.

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