Cholesterol—it’s a sticky issue

DSC03990 (450x321)Almost everyone approaching 50 will hear from his doctor sooner or later that he has high cholesterol. And right after that announcement, the prescription pad will follow with the word “Lipitor” or “Zocor” or some such on it. It’s estimated that one in four Americans over the age of 45 are taking a group of drugs the pharmaceutical companies have made famous (if not necessary) called “statins.” But are they safe…and moreover, are they effective?

We’re not here to argue drug merits.  For sure, the statins have reduced high “bad cholesterol” in most users. Still, there are unanswered questions: Is bad cholesterol really the cause of heart disease? Are the side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs worth the success of lowering the bad cholesterol in the first place?  Does a dependency on cholesterol-lowering drugs take the onus off people making healthy or not-so-healthy food and exercise choices?  These are big questions you need to ask yourself and discuss with your doctor for sure.

We on the health-food-store end of things love to hear both sides to problems—both the questions and the answers—from customers, medical doctors, naturopathic physicians, nutritionists, all manner of people, clinical trials and research. Then, we take that information, process it and pass what we’ve learned on to you.  We don’t know it all; in fact, we’ll never know it all. It’s the process that makes life worth living.  After all, we’re all in search of a better life, and we like to share what’s worked for us, and we want to know what’s worked for you.

At GreenAcres, we’ve got a little extra advantage: We get to hear about natural alternatives to prescription medicines from the manufacturers and formulators of natural supplements all the time.  For all kinds of reasons, particularly those that impact our own health, we like what we read, research and hear.  It’s getting back to the basics, choosing the right lifestyle, educating ourselves constantly that sets us free of the stereotypical response to what ails us.  Treating the symptom is one thing; treating the cause is everything.

Getting back to the statins…they are in fact classified as a “pregnancy category X medication, meaning they shouldn’t be taken by pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant as they can cause birth defects.” Scary enough, but now we hear there is a bold move by the pharmaceutical industry (before patents run out) to bring to market a chewable, “kid friendly” form of Lipitor which will target our youngest “patients” and even some school systems are calling for universal testings to find those youngsters “in need of treatment.” Is this the kind of public health we need? Like Big Pharma and GMOs, politics, it seems, is in everything!

What are the side effects of statins? Here are a few:

  • Muscle pain and damage. We have a customer that wasn’t aware of the debilitation until she tried to get out of a chair one day. Another customer had always enjoyed a weekly game of tennis until, in his 60s, he realized he had developed such severe tendonitis, he couldn’t play anymore. Once he pinpointed the problem and quit his statin drug, the pain went away and he once again picked up his tennis racquet.
  • Liver Damage. You’ve got to have regular blood tests when on statins (and other medications as well) to see if the liver is functioning properly. Although liver problems are rare, your doctor will likely order a liver enzyme test before or shortly after you begin to take statins as a precaution.
  • Digestive Problems. Some people may develop nausea, gas, diarrhea or constipation after taking statins. Some people tolerate them well. Depends on the system.

There are other side effects, but we don’t want you scare you to death.  And you should always talk to your doctor before taking and quitting a drug or going on an alternative regimen.

What is considered “normal range” for LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol)?  

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol LevelLDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 100mg/dLOptimal
100-129mg/dLNear optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dLBorderline high
160-189 mg/dLHigh
190 mg/dL and aboveVery High
HDL (Good) Cholesterol LevelHDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 40 mg/dLA major risk factor for heart disease
40—59 mg/dLThe higher, the better
60 mg/dL and higherConsidered protective against heart disease


How do you lower your cholesterol naturally?  To find one answer, we went to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s newsletter. Dr. Mercola is often mentioned on the Dr. Oz show and is a popular name in the alternative medicine field. This is what he had to say:

  1. Make sure you’re getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega3-fats. I prefer those from krill oil. New research suggests that as little as 500 mg may lower your total cholesterol and triglycerides and will likely increase your HDL cholesterol.
  2. Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your daily diet. It is especially important to eliminate dangerous sugars such as fructose. If your HDL/Cholesterol ratio is abnormal and needs to be improved it would also serve you well to virtually eliminate fruits from your diet, as that it also a source of fructose. Once your cholesterol improves you can gradually reintroduce it to levels that don’t raise your cholesterol.
  3. Eat a good portion of your food raw.
  4. Eat healthy, fats. This includes: Olive oil, coconut and coconut oil, organic raw dairy products (including butter, cream, sour cream and cheese), avocados, raw nuts, seeds, eggs (lightly cooked with yolks intact), organic, grass-fed meats and poultry.
  5. Get the right amount of exercise. When you exercise you increase your circulation and the blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of fighting an illness before it has the opportunity to spread.
  6. Avoid smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
  7. Address your emotional challenges.

Too good to be true?  “Hardly,” says Dr. Mercola.  “For the vast majority of people, making a few lifestyle changes causes healthy cholesterol levels to naturally occur. As always, your health really is in your hands. Now it’s up to you to take control — and shape it into something great.”

We, at GreenAcres, are here to help.