My 10 Tips For Healthy Hair Growth!

September 13, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

Sharing what has worked for me in growing my hair back from a major trim. *This is just MY personal advice*

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

Dr. Jud Fisher of Healthcare Partners of Nevada Discusses Men’s Health

June 17, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

Dr. Jud Fisher, a renown family practitioner, talks with the Las Vegas Morning Blend channel 13 about men’s health during Men’s Health Week.

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

HDL-Cholesterol May Help Men Live Longer ~ Health & Wellness Tip

April 3, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

Visit formore health tips and videos or follow us on http Here’s a quick bit of information about HDL, the good cholesterol, and aging. A recent study found that men who had higher levels of HDL in their 60’s were more likely to reach 85 than those who did not. Now, HDL is hard to increase but here are some of the known ways to increase it: regular, vigorous aerobic exercise; nuts like almonds and walnuts; diets high in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains like oatmeal. Alcohol in moderation, that’s 1-2 4 oz glasses of wine a night, have also been shown to increase the HDL. That’s a good guide for people who drink but I wouldn’t go out and start drinking just to raise your good cholesterol if you don’t drink already. Dr. Mark Savant is a General Internist. He has been in practice for over 12 years. received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin This video was produced by SavantMD Inc. © Copyright 2009 -2011 SavantMD Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

How your menstrual cycle affects your cholesterol levels

August 11, 2010 by  

Those who have or are at risk for cardiovascular disease regular have their lipid profiles checked, e.g. cholesterol and triglycerides. Although not given much emphasis, the timing of lipid check up may be important – especially in women. Previous studies have shown that estrogen-containing medications for women – for example, oral contraceptives or menopausal hormone therapy, have been shown to influence cholesterol levels in the blood. Fluctuation in level of estrogen results in fluctuating levels of blood lipids, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Results of a recent study funded the National Institutes of Health indicate that natural levels of estrogen in the blood, i.e. variations during the menstrual cycle can also affect cholesterol levels. “In a typical cycle, estrogen levels steadily increase as the egg cell matures, peaking just before ovulation…as the level of estrogen rises, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol also rises, peaking at the time of ovulation”. HDL cholesterol is the so-called “good cholesterol” and believed to be beneficial to heart health.

“In contrast, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels — as well as another form of blood fat known as triglycerides — declined as estrogen levels rose. The decline was not immediate, beginning a couple of days after the estrogen peak at ovulation. Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels reached their lowest just before menstruation began.”

LDL (aka bad cholesterol) and triglycerides are bad for the heart. The study results showed that cholesterol levels of women can fluctuate up to 19% during an ovulation cycle.

The researchers believe that when testing for lipids, in the blood, the timing in relation to a woman’s menstrual cycle should be taken into consideration. A test performed close to the point of ovulation can give a false picture of a woman’s lipid profile.

When a test shows high levels of total and LDL cholesterol, a confirmatory test is usually performed. When a patient is tested during the end of her cycle, cholesterol levels are low – misleadingly – that the need for an additional test to confirm a high cholesterol reading might be skipped. Thus, the diagnosis of hypercholesterolemia might be missed.

According to study author Enrique F. Schisterman:

“It’s more likely cholesterol levels will be elevated in women before ovulation, which could have a particular impact on women whose cholesterol levels are already high.”

High levels of LDL and cholesterol and triglycerides are risk factors for heart disease.

Photo credit: MenstrualCycle2_en.svg: Isometrik

Watch your cholesterol, watch your sugar intake

April 22, 2010 by  

Worried about your cholesterol levels? Are you on statins? Are you watching your fat intake? Well, it’s not only the transfats that you have to watch out for. Look out for the added sugar in your food as well. This is according to the results of a recent study by researchers at Emory University in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers looked at more than 6,100 participants and monitored their sugar intake and lipid profiles. The results revealed that:

  • Participants consumed an average of 21.4 teaspoons of added sugars a day, equivalent to more than 320 calories a day.
  • About 16% of the total daily caloric intake of the participants was from added sugars, up from 11% about 30 years ago.
  • Higher intake of added sugars was associated with lower levels of the good cholesterol HDL and higher levels of triglycerides or blood fats.

So what constitutes as added sugar? Well, it’s anything added to food during the processing and the preparation of food. This would include

  • sugar (table, brown, cooking)
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • molasses
  • syrups from brown rice, agave, maple, etc.
  • other caloric sweeteners

Almost everything that we eat besides fresh fruit and 100% juice contains added sugar, from bread and pastries to soft drinks and lemonade.

The researchers recommend that consumers cut down on their consumption of foods with added sugar, a move that doesn’t go well with the food industry.

Senior author Miriam Vos tells USA Today:

“We need to get used to consuming foods and drinks that are less sweet. People have been so focused on fat that we haven’t been focused on sugar, and it’s gotten away from us. This data show we can’t let either one or the other get too high.”

Clinicians warn their patients with hyperlipidemia about reducing their fat intake but gives sugar consumption attention.

Current guidelines from the American Heart Association recommend the following:

  • Women – maximum of 100 calories (6½ teaspoons) a day of added sugars.
  • Men – maximum of 150 calories (9½ teaspoons) a day from added sugars.

Thus it is not only the weight watchers who have to watch their sugar intake. Those who are at risk of cardiovascular disease (high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease) should keep an eye on their sugar as well as fat intake. In the end, a healthy diet is the key to a healthy heart.

Live long or die young: it’s all about cardiovascular risk factors

September 21, 2009 by  

hourglassMany people would give anything to live longer. However, what many of us are not aware of is that certain lifestyle factors can actually either add to or shave 10 years off our lifespan. Ten years – that’s a decade! Or even more.

This study by UK researchers at Oxford looked at 18,863 men who were part of the British Whitehall study. The participants were aged 40 to 69 who were working as civil servants in London. They were followed up, filled out questionnaires on medical history, smoking habits, employment grades, and marital status and underwent a medical exam that measured blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose concentrations, and height and weight. The study started between 1967 and 1970, and followed up the participants for 38 years.

The results of the study showed that three cardiovascular risk factors in middle age – smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels – are increase the likelihood of vascular mortality by 3-fold. In addition, non-vascular death is also two times higher among those with these risk factors, and their life expectancy is shortened by 10 years. When looking at more extreme categorization of risk factors, the researchers found that factors like body-mass index (BMI), diabetes mellitus/glucose intolerance, and employment grade can even shorten lifespan by up to 15 years.

According to the researchers

“Continued public-health strategies to lower mean levels of the three main cardiovascular risk factors, together with more intensive medical treatment for ‘high-risk’ subgroups, including use of medication to lower blood pressure and cholesterol concentration, which have proven efficacy, could result in further improvements in life expectancy.”

The findings of the UK study agree with another study conducted in the US, viewed from another perspective.  The study, which was part of the Physician’s Health Study, reported that the absence of the same risk factors listed above leads to exceptional longevity and better health status and quality of life at old age. The study concluded that

Modifiable healthy behaviors during early elderly years, including smoking abstinence, weight management, blood pressure control, and regular exercise, are associated not only with enhanced life span in men but also with good health and function during older age.

So you decide: what is it going to be: live longer or die younger. It is your choice.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

The bad cholesterol you don’t know about

August 26, 2009 by  

burger_mealYou think you know everything there is to know about cholesterol, the good, the bad, and the ugly? Well think again. There is another one that you might not know about and it might just be the baddest of them all.

Let’s backtrack a bit about cholesterol numbers

  • There’s the low density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL cholesterol, aka the bad cholesterol.
  • Then there’s the high density lipoprotein cholesterol of the HDL cholesterol, aka the good cholesterol.
  • Then there’s your total cholesterol which is basically an estimate of the all the cholesterol, good or bad, in your blood plus triglycerides.

The trick to cardiovascular health is to keep the bad and the total cholesterol low but keep the good one high.

But now there’s this report about the little known but high dangerous cholesterol – the so-called oxycholesterol which Chinese researchers introduced at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

According to lead researcher Dr. Zhen-Yu Chen of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and the heart-healthy high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) are still important health issues. But the public should recognize that oxycholesterol is also important and cannot be ignored. Our work demonstrated that oxycholesterol boosts total cholesterol levels and promotes atherosclerosis [“hardening of the arteries”] more than non-oxidized cholesterol.”

Oxycholesterol is definitely oxidized cholesterol. It is found in fried and processed foods such as fried chicken, steaks, and grilled burgers. Oxidation occurs when fat-containing food stuffs are heated. However, according to the researchers, food manufacturer intentionally add oxidized oils such as trans-fatty acids and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils to improve texture, taste and stability of the foodstuffs.

The researchers have tested oxycholesterol in hamsters and found that oxycholesterol consumption led to greater cholesterol deposition on the arterial lining as well as formation of larger atherosclerotic plaques. Oxycholesterol had undesirable effects on “artery function.” [It] reduced the elasticity of arteries, impairing their ability to expand and carry more blood.

The bad news is that it is not clear whether current anti-cholesterol medications are effective against oxycholesterol. The good news is that eating healthy food rich in antioxidants (fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts) can counteract the effects of oxycholesterol since antioxidants can block the oxidation process that leads to the formation of oxycholesterol.

So which way do you go?

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Your brain needs good cholesterol, too!

June 11, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

brainIt is well-known that high blood cholesterol levels are not good for the heart. Is is also quite known that high levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) – the bad type of cholesterol – can build up and block arteries and adversely affect cardiovascular health.

What is not so well-known is the fact that low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) – the good type of cholesterol – is linked to memory loss and increased risk for dementia. This is according to a study by European researchers.

It seems that cholesterol levels are important not only for heart health but for brain health as well.

The study followed up 3,673 people as part of the long-term Whitehall II study involving British civil servants. The results showed that low levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with diminished memory by age 60. No link was found between memory loss and levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides. The use of statins to manage cholesterol levels did not seem to have an effect.

According to lead author Dr. Archana Singh-Manoux of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM, France) and the University College London (UK)

“Memory problems are key in the diagnosis of dementia. We found that a low level of HDL may be a risk factor for memory loss in late midlife. This suggests that low HDL cholesterol might also be a risk factor for dementia.”

The mechanism behind this link between HDL cholesterol and dementia risk is not so clear but the following hypotheses are proposed:

  • HDL cholesterol blocks the formation of beta-amyloid.
  • HDL cholesterol may affect memory in relation to its role in maintaining vascular health.
  • HDL cholesterol could influence memory through its -inflammatory and antioxidant.

HDL cholesterol… serves several vital biological functions. It helps clear excess cholesterol from the blood; assists nerve-cell synapses to mature; and helps control the formation of beta-amyloid, the major component of the protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Dementia usually occurs in people 65 years or older. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. In the developed world where a large proportion of the population are elderly, dementia is becoming a major – and costly – health concern. The monitoring of HDL cholesterol (and not only LDL cholesterol!) should therefore be encouraged – for the heart as well as for the brain.

Photo credit: stock.xhcng

Make your barbecue a bit heart-friendly

April 13, 2009 by  

bbq_spare_ribsThe barbecue season started this Easter weekend. At least in this corner of the world where we live. Now that the weather is starting to get warmer, and the sun is shining most of the time, evenings and weekends are barbecue time also known as grill time in many parts of Western Europe.

There’s nothing more appetizing than the smell of meat, burgers, and sausages sizzling on the grill. In our neighbourhood, I think we are the only ones who do not own a garden barbecue set. We have a mini electric grill but that’s how far our barbecue equipment goes. But we don’t mind. Because we are not such big meat eaters despite the tempting aroma around us.

A recent study by the National Cancer Institute indicates that consuming large amounts of red and processed meat can damage your health. They contain high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. A diet high in these foods causes a modest but statistically significant increase in the risk of death from heart disease and cancer.

In many countries, barbecue and meat consumption is a part of life and to forgo on these can be very difficult. However, there are ways and means to make your barbecue more heart-friendly. Here are some tips for barbecue fans:

Take it easy on the red meat.

The recommended amount of meat consumption per day is 4 ounces and obviously this amounts to just one small biteful to many people. If you have to eat meat, then follow Web MD’s recommendations:

Look for lean protein such as chicken or turkey breasts, pork tenderloin, or beef round, sirloin or tenderloin. Read labels to ensure the meat is 96% to 98% fat free.

Take it easy on the salt.

Do not use too much salt or sugar in the marinade, depending on your preferring. Honey can be used instead of sugar. Use more herbs and lemon juice, and less salt.

Take it easy on the barbecue sauce.

Most barbecue sauces are rich in trans fats and cholestererol. Pay attention to the food labels. Choose sauces and dips with zero of trans fats and low saturated fats per serving. If you have to use fat or oil, use olive or canola oil.

Take it easy on the alcohol.

Beer and barbecue go together. However, alcoholic drinks are calorie-rich and fattening. Check alternatives such as sugar-free juices and mineral water.

Load up on vegetables.

Fresh salad should be part of the barbecue menu. In addition, vegetables can also be placed on the grill, including tomatoes, bell pepper, mushrooms and beans. The best way to do this is to wrap these vegetables in aluminium foil and cook them on the barbecue just like jacket potatoes.

Eat whole grain and high fiber carbs.

To go with the meat and salad, serve whole grain bread and pasta because these are rich in fibers.

You need not completely forgo on barbecue unless there is an urgent medical need to do so. But for the sake of your long-term health, cutting down is necessary. Bon appetit!

Killing two birds with one stone: lower your cholesterol, lower your prostate cancer risk

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

There are two big “C’s” – cardiovascular disease and cancer – that we are fighting today. A study published in the American Journal of Pathology reveals that high cholesterol levels not only cause atherosclerosis and heart disease but can also contribute to prostate cancer development and progression.

The link between cholesterol and cancer has been observed in laboratory mice fed with high fat, high cholesterol diet and treated with the cholesterol uptake-blocking drug ezetimibe. The researchers observed that the fatty cholesterol rich diets promoted tumor growth whereas the drug ezetimibe prevented the tumor growth while lowering cholesterol levels at the same time. Ezetimibe works by blocking the absorption of cholesterol by the intestine.

Thus, the study results suggest

cholesterol reduction, which is routinely accomplished pharmacologically in humans, may reduce angiogenesis, ultimately leading to less aggressive tumors.”

Prostate cancer is a very common cancer, affecting approximately 1 in 6 American men. Previous research studies have linked prostate cancer with the so-called typical “Western diet” which is rich in fat and high cholesterol. Progression of prostate tumors have also been linked to serum cholesterol levels.

Last December, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that cancer will overtake cardiovascular disease as the world’s top killer in 2010. When the projected cancer statistics were published last year, it was noted that there are similarities between the two big C’s. The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a statement saying that

The risk and demographic factors they have identified as predictive of an increase in cancer deaths are the very same factors that are going to result in more cardiovascular deaths, too, so we are on the same track.”

Some of these factors, mainly lifestyle factors are:

  • tobacco use
  • high calorie, high-saturated and trans-fat diets

The fact that people in less developed countries are rapidly adopting the “Western lifestyle” listed above led to the prediction that cancer and cardiovascular disease will rapidly increase worldwide despite the fact that they are currently declining in the US and other developed countries

According to AHA President Tim Garner

The American Heart Association has been working for decades to move out of that ‘top spot’ of being the number one killer. It’s a distinction that none of us want to have. And unless we can do better in reducing these risk factors in the United States, it may be a long time before we can shed the title of number one.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Synthetic HDL has potential to control cholesterol levels

February 10, 2009 by  

Two main types of cholesterol are found in our body, the low density lipoprotein (LDL) and the high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL is considered to be the “bad” cholesterol and should therefore be kept low whereas HDL is the “good” cholesterol whose high levels bring some positive effects. High levels of LDL cholesterol results in a condition called hyperlipidemia and can cause cardiovascular disorders.

Researchers at the Northwestern University have just created a synthetic HDL, a molecule very similar to the naturally occurring HDL, from its molecular size to its surface composition.

“We have designed and built a cholesterol sponge. The synthetic HDL features the basics of what a great cholesterol drug should be,” according to researcher Prof Chad A. Mirkin of the Northwestern School of Medicine.

The synthetic HDL was synthesized in the lab with two lipid layers covered by the main component of natural HDL – the APOA1 protein and a gold nanoparticle in its core.

According to Dr. Shad Thaxton, another researcher in the team

“Cholesterol is essential to our cells, but chronic excess can lead to dangerous plaque formation in our arteries. HDL transports cholesterol to the liver, which protects against atherosclerosis. Our hope is that, with further development, our synthetic form of HDL could be used to increase HDL levels and promote better health.

Currently available anti-cholesterol drugs such as statins are effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels but can’t increase the HDL levels. The sponge-like synthetic HDL is supposed to be able “sop up” the bad lipoproteins, thereby, lowering LDL while increasing HDL at the same time. It is hope that the future of hyperlipidemia management lies in this new molecule.

High LDL cholesterol levels and low HDL levels are risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke. The risk profiles based on LDL, HDL and total (LDL + HDL) cholesterol levels are as follows:

  • High LDL cholesterol values above 130 mg/dL indicate increased risk.
  • HDL values below 40 mg/dL indicate increased risk.
  • A total cholesterol level of <200 mg/dL reflects a low risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • A total cholesterol level of 200 to 240 mg/dL indicates moderate/borderline risk.
  • A total cholesterol above 240 mg/dL is considered to be high risk.

It will take another while till the effectiveness and safety of the synthetic HDL can be tested and proven. In the meantime, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following ways in keeping your cholesterol levels under control:

Photo credit: Stock.Xchng

Knowing your heart and stroke drugs: statins

November 17, 2008 by  

Resource post for November


Statin drugs or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors play a very important role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. They are the first line treatment against high cholesterol levels. Statins have anti-inflammatory properties and interfere with the production of cholesterol thus slowing down the formation of plaques on the arterial walls.

According to the US FDA, statin medications

Statins are also said to be the bestselling drugs of all times, raking in billions of dollar in sales every year. Currently available statin drugs are:

  • Lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor)
  • Fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor)

Research studies

Recent studies indicate that statins may play a major role in therapeutic areas outside cardiovascular medicine, thus may earn the title of “the aspirin of the 21st century“. Some of these studies are summarized below.

Statins associated with lower risk of death from pneumonia

Pneumonia is a major cause of mortality worldwide, even in developed countries. It has been reported that the incidence of pneumonia is increasing and hospitalization rates in the US and Europe have increased by 20 to 50% during the last 10 years. About 10 to 15% of pneumonia cases result in death.

Does statin use lower mortality rates due to pneumonia? Danish researchers report in the October 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine that “individuals who take cholesterol-lowering statins before being hospitalized with pneumonia appear less likely to die within 90 days afterward.

The researchers studied data from 29,900 patients hospitalized with pneumonia between 1997 and 2004. 4.6% of these patients (1,371) were taking statins before and during hospitalization as anticholesterol treatment.

Death rates within 30 days among statin users were much lower (10.3%) were much lower than non-statin users (15.7%). The same trend was observed after 90 days, with 16.8% mortality rates among statin users compared to 22.4% among non-users.

The mechanism behind this effect of statins is not clear but the authors theorize that

“Statins change the immune response, beneficially affect processes associated with blood clotting and inflammation and inhibit dysfunction in blood vessels. These effects may especially benefit patients with sepsis and bacteremia, which are associated with early death from pneumonia.”

Statins block 1 cause of pregnancy loss in mice

What does statin have to do with pregnancy? Researchers at Cornell University observed that statins can actually prevent antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), an inflammatory condition that causes serious complications in pregnancy ranging from spontaneous abortion, fetal growth problems and even fetal death. The researchers demonstrated this beneficial effect of statins in laboratory mice.

Statins may protect against memory loss

Statins seem to also have protective properties against dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. This is according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The researchers observed that “if a person takes statins over a course of about 5-7 years, it reduces the risk of dementia by half.” The study studied tracked 1674 older Mexican-Americans did not have dementia for 5 years. Within the follow up period, 130 study participants developed some form of dementia or cognitive impairment. The incidence of dementia was lower among the 452 participants who took statins at some point in the study. This is an interesting development in view of stories about the popular statin drug Lipitor causing memory losses.

Statins lower blood marker for prostate cancer

Men who are taking statins to lower their cholesterol levels have lower prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a known biomarker for cancer risk. The PSA reduction seems to be related to statin use in a dose-dependent manner. The study followed up 1214 men who were on statins between 1990 and 2006 and monitored their PSA levels. Whether the effect of statins on the PSA levels translates into anticancer properties is not yet clear.

Are statins beneficial or harmful in multiple sclerosis?

A previous study in animals has shown that some statins may be beneficial against multiple sclerosis when combined with other drugs. This was demonstrated by University of California researchers in mice. In another study, Phoenix researchers showed that simvastatin may have some anti-inflammatory effect that counteracts inflammatory components of multiple sclerosis. However, another study indicates that certain doses of stains combined with beta interferon may actually increase the clinical disease activity in patients with multiple sclerosis. “Caution is [therefore] suggested in administering this combination.” The latter study was based on data of 26 study participants.

Statins lower risk of clots in cancer patients

Researchers at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia observed that cancer patients taking statins have lower incidence of blood clots than non-users. Thus, statins “may have a future in preventing blood clots in patients with breast, lung, colon and other solid-organ cancers.”


The abovementioned studies show that there are other potential uses of statins aside from lowering cholesterol levels. However, all these results are preliminary. Further and larger studies are needed to further explore these beneficial effects as well as the risks that may be involved. Many people will claim that most of the positive reports about statins are propaganda from the pharmaceutical companies. Conspiracy theories abound. However, if statins can provide health benefits beyond cardiovascular medicine, who are we to say no?

We also have to be aware that like all drugs, statins come with side effects. Most side effects are mild but some can be serious. Myopathy is a potential fatal denegerative disease of the muscles possibly linked to statin use.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Resource post for October: Alternative supplements to lower your cholesterol levels

October 2, 2008 by  

There are mainstream pharmacological products and there are alternative natural products. There was a time when these two types of products don’t mix. Nowadays, many health experts not only believe but even recommend the use of alternative or adjunctive therapies in the form of acupuncture, yoga, etc. as well as nutritional supplements, nutraceuticals, and herbal medicine.

However, it is always prudent to use these products with caution. While many have been proven to be beneficial to our health and highly effective against certain diseases, there are also many which are suspect and can even have harmful effects.

In this post, I will try to review what the experts say about cholesterol-lowering supplements and alternative products.

Only a few natural products have been proved to be effective in reducing cholesterol levels. The table below from the MayoClinic site gives us a comprehensive overview of the most common alternative cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Cholesterol-lowering supplement

What it does

Side effects and drug interactions

Usual suggested doses 

Artichoke extract

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol

May cause gas or an allergic reaction

1,800 to 1,920 milligrams a day, divided into 2 to 3 doses 


May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol


3 grams barley oil extract or 30 grams barley bran flour a day 

Beta-sitosterol (found in oral supplements and some margarines, such as Promise Activ)

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause nausea, indigestion, gas, diarrhea or constipation
May be ineffective if you take ezetimibe (Zetia), a prescription cholesterol medication

800 milligrams to 6 grams a day, divided and taken before meals, or 2 tablespoons of margarine containing beta-sitosterol a day 

Blond psyllium (found in seed husk and products such as Metamucil)

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation or nausea

5 grams seed husk twice a day, or 1 serving a day of products such as Metamucil 

Fish oil (found as a liquid oil and in oil-filled capsules)

May reduce triglycerides

May cause a fishy aftertaste, bad breath, gas, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
May interact with some blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin)

2 to 4 grams a day 

Flaxseed, ground

May reduce total triglycerides

May cause, gas, bloating or diarrhea
May interact with some blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix) and warfarin (Coumadin)

40 to 50 grams a day, stirred into cereal or yogurt, or mixed into the batter for baked goods 

Garlic extract

May reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides

May cause bad breath or body odor, heartburn, gas, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
May interact with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin)

600 to 1,200 milligrams a day, divided into 3 doses 

Oat bran (found in oatmeal and whole oats)

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause gas or bloating

Up to 150 grams of whole-oat products a day 

Sitostanol (found in oral supplements and some margarines, such as Benecol)

May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause diarrhea

800 milligrams to 4 grams a day, or 4 1/2 teaspoons of margarine containing sitostanol a day 

 Other products not on the list are the following oriental herbal medicine (Sources: Mayo Clinic; Cleveland Clinic)

  • Guggulipid comes from the gum resin of the mukul myrrh tree (Commiphora whighitii).
  • The root extract from Costus speciosus is said to be antihyperglycemic, antihyperlipemic and antioxidative effects
  • Bofutsushosan which is a Japanese herbal medicine seems to have a similar effect.
  • Cinnamon
  • Noni juice is an extract from the fruit of Morinda citrifolia which grows in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Red yeast rice, an extract of Monascus purpureus has been reported to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health (see previous post). However, the US FDA has issued a warning concerning three brands of red yeast rice because they were found to contain unknown quantities of lovastatin. High doses of lovastatin is associated with muscle and kidney problems.

The following plant extracts are said to be rich in flavonoids which inhibit LDL oxidation:

Supplements and herbal medicine are available without prescription. However, before we embark on a certain therapy or start on a new drug, we must keep several things in mind.

  •  It is absolutely necessary that you discuss with your doctor before starting on an alternative drug or therapy. Different kinds of medicine, alternative or mainstream, may interact with one another to produce undesirable and sometimes dangerous effects. For example, garlic can lead to prolonged bleeding and longer blood clotting time, so that garlic and garlic supplements should not be taken with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin.
  • We should be cautious of using supplements that are not certified by health authorities. Some imported traditional medicine may turn out to be contaminated, much worse – counterfeits.
  • Remember – it is also important that any therapy should be complemented by a healthy lifestyle and diet.

You can also check out this highly informative podcast by a health expert at MayoClinic:

Podcast: Cholesterol-lowering supplements – Which work and which don’t?


Photo credit at stock.xchng:

Know your medications: anti-cholesterol drugs

September 25, 2008 by  

It’s Cholesterol Awareness Month.

So I think it’s only right that I tackle the topic of drugs used in controlling our cholesterol levels. For a review of the basics of cholesterol and what out cholesterol numbers mean, check out this resource post. In the same post, I have tackled lifestyle changes strategies that can help lower and control cholesterol levels. In today’s post, let us take a look at the pharmacological therapies for high cholesterol levels.

The main types of cholesterol-lowering drugs are summarized below.


Statins also known as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, are the most popular of currently available anti-cholesterol drugs. They act on the enzyme that regulates the rate at which our body produces cholesterol. They are known to be most effective in lowering LDL levels (20 to 55%) and triglycerides to a lesser extent.

Statins currently available in the U.S.include:

Statins are also available in combination with other classes of drugs, namely Advicor® (lovastatin + niacin), Caduet® (atorvastatin + amlodipine), and VytorinTM (simvastatin + ezetimibe).


Selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed in the intestine. Ezetimibe (Zetia®) is the first inhibitor to be approved. It has been shown to lower LDL levels by about 18 to 25%., moderately lowers triglycerides, and increases HDL levels.


Resins (also known as sequestrant or bile acid-binding drugs) bind with cholesterol-containing bile acids in the intestines and facilitate their elimination in the stool. These class of drugs can lower LDL levels by about 15 to 30%.

Resins currently available in the U.S. include:


Nicotinic acid also known as niacin is actually a water-soluble B vitamin that can lower LDL levels (5 to 15%) and triglycerides and increase HDL levels. However, its positive effect on out lipid profiles is only achieved in doses higher than when taken as just vitamin supplement. For cholesterol control, niacin should only be taken upon doctor’s orders.


Fibrates or fibric acid derivatives are mostly effective in lowering triglycerides and moderately increase HDL levels. However, they don’t effectively lower LDL levels.

Fibrates currently available in the U.S.include:

[Sources: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); American Heart Association (AHA)]

As with almost all medications, these drugs should only be taken after discussion with your doctor. Currently, there are no avalaible OTC drugs to control cholesterol levels. There may be drugs sold over the Internet but these offers should be approached with extreme caution (see previous post on this). However, aside from taking medications, lifestyle changes are also necessary in the fight against cholesterol and heart disease.

Coming soon: alternative products and supplements against cholesterol.

Photo credit: drugs by sarej at stock.xchng

Resource post for September: National Cholesterol Awareness Month

September 11, 2008 by  

September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month (American Heart Association [AHA]) or National Cholesterol Education Month (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [NHLBI]). It is therefore appropriate that our resource posts for this month will be on cholesterol.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance belonging to the sterol group. It is found in all animal tissues. When we eat meat, cholesterol is absorbed into our body and transported in the blood.

Cholesterols are classified depending on their molecular size. For our health, the important ones are the low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Why is cholesterol important for our health?

The levels of cholesterol in the blood are strong risk factors for heart disease. The higher the LDL cholesterol concentration in your blood, the bigger is your risk to develop cardiovascular disease. HDL cholesterol on the other hand, is considered good for the heart

Heart disease is the primary cause of mortality, not only in the US but on a global scale. About a million heart attacks occur in the US each year and half of these cases result in death.

How does cholesterol damage the heart?

When too much cholesterol is in the blood, it will accumulate on the walls of the arteries, especially the coronary arteries – the main blood vessels supplying blood to the heart. Because of the fatty deposits on the arterial walls, the arteries become narrow, and the walls hardened and less flexible. This constriction of the coronary artery can interfere with the blood supply to the heart. Insufficient blood going to the heart can cause chest pains (angina pectoris). When the artery becomes blocked so that blood supply to the heart is completely cut off, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs.

What does your cholesterol test tell you?

Experts recommend that everybody aged 20 and older should have a lipid profile test at least every 5 years to check their blood cholesterol. Cholesterol levels are measured as milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, or mg/dL.

To give us an idea of what our cholesterol levels mean, check out the table below provided by NHLBI:


Total Cholesterol Level


Less than 200 mg/dL


200-239 mg/dL

Borderline high

240 mg/dL and above


LDL Cholesterol Level

LDL Cholesterol Category

Less than 100 mg/dL


100-129 mg/dL

Near optimal/above optimal

130-159 mg/dL

Borderline high

160-189 mg/dL


190 mg/dL and above

Very high

HDL cholesterol protects us against heart disease so higher values of HDL are actually positive. An HDL level less than 40 mg/dL is low and increases our risk for developing heart disease. An HDL level of 60 mg/dL or more, on the other hand, can help to lower our risk for heart disease.

What are the things that influence our cholesterol levels?

Our cholesterol levels depend on the following:

  • Age. Our cholesterol levels tend to rise with age.
  • Gender. Premenopausal women generally have lower cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, women’s cholesterol levels have the tendency to increase.
  • Genetics. Your cholesterol levels might be partly due to your genes. Check out your family history of cholesterol levels.
  • Diet. You are what you eat. And food rich in cholesterol, trans fat and saturated fat are big threats to your cholesterol profile.
  • Weight. Being overweight is another thing that makes your cholesterol levels rise.
  • Physical Activity. A sedentary lifestyle will raise your LDL and lower your HDL.

The first three are things we cannot do anything to change. However, we have the power to change the last three things on the list in order to lower our cholesterol levels and our risk for heart disease

How do we control our cholesterol levels?

Experts at NHLBI recommend 2 main ways to control our cholesterol levels:

This resource post will concentrate on TLC. The topic of cholesterol-lowering drugs will be tackled in another post.

TLC can help us lower our risk for heart disease without drugs and the three things we have to work on are our diet, weight, and exercise as listed above.

Diet. We should lessen our intake of food rich in trans- and saturated fat – French fries, margarine, fried chicken, and other animal products. However, our body needs fat in order to work. What we need are unsaturated fats and they are to be found in vegetable oils, fish, nuts, and olives. If we have to use oil, olive oil is the best option.

Physical Activity. Exercise burns the calories you take in. It is good, not only for the heart, for the muscles, bones, and brains. For newbies to exercise, a slow start is necessary. Beginners’ activities can simple daily tasks like house cleaning and gardening. From there, physical activity can be built up to light-, moderate-, to high-intensity exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling, playing basketball or football.

Weight. Proper diet and exercise are the keys to weight loss and weight control. It’s all in one and the same package. The resources below will give you more detailed ways of lowering and controlling your cholesterol.

Reading resources

Here is some useful information you can download:

For basic information about cholesterol: High Blood Cholesterol – What You Need to Know

A very comprehensive guide with easy-to-follow lifestyle changes tips, heart-friendly recipes, and fun exercises: Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol with Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC)

Cholesterol resources at the Heart Hub of the American Heart Organization

Sample recipes from Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol, Fourth Edition


CVD News Watch for the Weekend August 15

August 15, 2008 by  

Looking forward to your second Olympics weekend? Be aware, though, that watching stressful sports events might just not be good for your heart. Happy reading!

CVD healthcare watch

Coronary CTA costs less than standard of care for triaging women with acute chest pain

Would you believe it, non-invasive CTA – short for coronary CT angiography seems to be cheaper than standard diagnostic care which consists of stress tests and cardiac enzymes screening – at least for women with low-risk profiles but acute chest pains. This is according to a report by the American Roentgen Ray Society.

CVD cholesterol watch

People with heart disease still have trouble controlling blood lipid levels

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine report that current cholesterol level management among heart disease patients is not enough to keep total blood lipid profile in control. It seems that it is not enough to lower the bad LDL cholesterol. Other lipids such as HDL cholesterol and triglycerides should be monitored as well.

CVD weight loss watch

Scientists identify another piece of the weight-control puzzle

Is it all in the brain? Neuroscientists at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston have identified that the neurotransmitter GABA may play a role in weight control. Read more about this research which will be published in Nature Neuroscience.

CVD nutrition watch

ViaViente demonstrates cardiovascular benefits in new human trial

ViaVente – this anti-oxidant product in the form of fruity beverage seems to show benefits to cardiovascular health in this new study in humans. The study was conducted by Bell Ventures.

CVD drug watch

Multaq (dronedarone) granted FDA priority review for patients with atrial fibrillation

The new drug application for dronedarone (commercial name Multaq) is now under priority review by the US FDA. Dronedarone is indicated for the treatment of atrial fibrillation or flutter. It has been developed by the French pharmaceutical company sanofi-aventis. According to the company’s press release:

Atrial fibrillation is a major cause of hospitalisation and mortality and affects about 2.5 million people in the United States, as well as 4.5 million people in the European Union and is emerging as a growing public health concern due to an aging population. Patients suffering from atrial fibrillation have twice the risk of death, an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular complications, including congestive heart failure. Furthermore atrial fibrillation considerably impairs patients’ lives, mainly because of their inability to perform normal daily activities due to complaints of palpitations, chest pain, dyspnoea, fatigue or light-headedness.

 CVD pollution watch

Air pollution damages more than lungs: Heart and blood vessels suffer too

Right in the wake of the Beijing Olympics, California researchers will publish in the August  issue Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) an article that reports how air pollution can injure the heart and the blood vessels in the short- and long-term.

Dementia and your cholesterol

July 21, 2008 by  

When we speak of cholesterol, negative thoughts of blocked arteries and heart attacks come to mind. However, not all types of cholesterol are detrimental to our health. There are 2 main types of cholesterol in our body – the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and the high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL cholesterol is considered to be “bad” cholesterol and is linked to atherosclerosis. LDL levels in our blood should therefore be kept low. HDL is deemed to be the “good” cholesterol and high levels of HDL in the blood may actually be beneficial and decrease the risk of heart attacks. HDL cholesterol plays important roles in several vital biological functions including clearance of excess cholesterol from the blood, assistance in the maturation process of nerve-cell synapses, and controlling the formation of beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is the major component of plaque deposits found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

A recent study demonstrated the role of HDL in the development of dementia. Low levels of HDL are linked to having memory loss in middle age and dementia later in life. The report is based on data collected by the Whitehall II study, a long-term health research study involving more than 10,000 British civil servants working in London. The study has been ongoing since 1985.

“Observing 3,673 participants (26.8 percent women) from the Whitehall II study, researchers found that falling levels of HDL cholesterol were predictors of declining memory by age 60.”

The research defined low HDL levels as less than 40 mg/dL and high HDL levels as 60 mg/dL or more. The researchers analysed blood-fat and memory data collected during 2 phases of Whitehall II. Phase 5 was conducted from 1995 to 1997 and involved study participants with an average age of 55. Phase 7 was conducted from 2002 to 2004 and involved participants with an average age of 61 years.

The main findings of study are as follows:

In the industrialized world, where the population is aging, dementia is becoming a major concern. People 65 years or older are the ones who are usually affected. For a quick review of dementia, check this previous post.


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Statins for my kids?!!!

July 15, 2008 by  

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a revision of a policy statement from 1 January 1998 regarding lipid screening in children.

The new guidelines recommend early cholesterol screening of children and adolescents with a family history of high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease as well as children who are significantly overweight. Lipid screening should start as early as 2 years old, should be repeated 3 to 5 years later, and shouldn’t be put off beyond the 10th year of a child’s life.

For children older than 8 years old showing high LDL cholesterol concentrations, prescription of anti-cholesterol should be considered. The AAP justifies these recommendations

“…given the current epidemic of childhood obesity with the subsequent increasing risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease in older children and adults. The approach to screening children and adolescents with a fasting lipid profile remains a targeted approach.

The drugs recommended are bile acid-binding resins, niacin or nicotinic acid, statins, and cholesterol-absorption inhibitors.

In recent years, obesity has become a problem in the US and many industrialized countries. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 16.9% of boys and 15.6% of girls aged 6 to 11 years among non-Hispanic white Americans are overweight. Among non-Hispanic blacks, it’s 17.2% of boys and 24.8%of girls in the same age group. For Mexican Americans, it’s 25.6% of boys and 16.6% of girls.

The AAP policy statement continues:

Overweight children belong to a special risk category of children and are in need of cholesterol screening regardless of family history or other risk factors. Thisreport reemphasizes the need for prevention of cardiovascular disease by following Dietary Guidelines for Americans and increasing physical activity and also includes a review of the pharmacologic agents and indications for treating dyslipidemia in children.

The new recommendations of AAP closely mirror those of the American Heart Association (AHA) 2007 scientific statement on Drug Therapy of High-Risk Lipid Abnormalities in Children and Adolescents, according to an AHA statement.

But a lot of people are questioning the necessity of anti-cholesterol drugs for children, especially parents and parents-to-be. A colleague from a parenting blog speculated that this might simply be another trick up the sleeve of big pharmaceutical companies to increase drug sales.

As mother to 2 young children, I can understand these parents’ concerns because I, myself, am extremely wary about feeding pills to my kids unless absolutely necessary. As an insider in the pharmaceutical industry, I am also aware that conflicts of interests in the biomedical field are common.

To be fair, the AAP recommendations also provides for non-pharmacologic preventive measures such as weight loss, nutritional counselling, and increased exercise. The use of low-fat milk and other dairy products is recommended for children as young as 1 year old. The AAP pushes close monitoring of children’s food intake and endorses the daily dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association.

We may not all agree with everything that’s in the AAP’s new guidelines but we cannot deny the fact that obesity is indeed becoming a problem among children. And that something has to be done about it.

I still believe in the power of prevention. And prevention should start at home.

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CVD News Watch for the Weekend 11 July 2008

July 11, 2008 by  

Here is your compiled CVD news to enjoy over the weekend.

CVD lifestyle watch

Heart-Friendly Cities Revealed

The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement, through Sperling’s BestPlaces, conducted a study to determine how heart-friendly is your city.

And here are the results.

Top 3 most heart-friendly mega metros (= cities with population equal or greater than 1.5 million)

  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  • San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, CA

3 least heart-friendly mega metros

  • Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI
  • St. Louis, MO-IL
  • Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro, TN

Want to know whether your city is heart-friendly? Click here for a full list of heart-friendly cities in the US.

CVD patient watch

From CBC News: “Ontario woman gains East Coast accent following stroke

This woman was very lucky to survive a stroke but at the expense of her accent. Her Ontario accent was replaced by a much slower Canadian East Coast accent.

The rare syndrome affects people who have had a stroke, causing them to speak in a different accent than the one they had before the stroke. It usually occurs after a stroke damages the areas of the left hemisphere of the brain related to speech production, such as Broca’s area, pre-motor and motor areas and the basal ganglia.”

Small price to pay for surviving a stroke, I’d say.

CVD weight watch

From Reuters: “How weekend eating adds up

We are eating more on weekends, especially on Saturdays, leading to weight gain that adds up to almost 10 lbs a year! Careful, today is Friday.

CVD medical device watch

XIENCETM V Everolimus Eluting Coronary Stent now approved in the US

The US FDA approves Xience V, the eluting coronary stent system containing the drug everolimus. According to the FDA

“The XIENCE V stent is used in patients who have a significant narrowing in their coronary arteries caused by coronary artery disease – a condition that occurs when the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to the heart muscle become narrowed or blocked by a gradual build-up of ‘plaque’.”

For more information about this device, check out this video clip from Abbott.

CVD cholesterol watch

The New York Times “Cholesterol Drugs for Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics broadens existing guidelines to include more cholesterol screening for children starting at age 2 and the use of cholesterol-lowering medications in children as young as 8 years old. More about the AAP guidelines next week.

CVD clinical trial watch

From heartwire: “FDA advisory committee recommends cardiovascular safety studies for diabetes drugs

After Avandia, the FDA is more wary about diabetic drugs. The regulatory body would require more clinical studies on new diabetes drugs to rule out cardiovascular risk before they can be approved for marketing.

Have a nice weekend.

CVD News Watch for the Weekend

July 4, 2008 by  

Starting this month, I will be compiling the week’s news related to cardiovascular disorders (CVD) for you to read over weekend.

CVD nutrition watch

Green tea protects against heart disease

Several cups of green tea a day can keep the doctor away. A study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation presents evidence than green tea may not only have protective properties against cancer, it can also protect us from heart disease. It seems that green tea improves blood flow and helps the arteries to relax. Click here to read more. Source: Reuters Health this week.

CVD treatment watch

Invasive treatment appears beneficial for men and high-risk women with certain coronary syndromes

This article reports that certain invasive treatments such as heart catheterization, for example, may not beneficial to all coronary patients. These therapies may be good for men as well as women with high risk profiles resulting in lower risk for hospitalization, heart attack or death. However, such therapies can actually elevate the risks in women with low-risk profiles. It is therefore recommended that invasive treatments should only be prescribed after a full and extensive analysis of profile risks, especially in women.

Source: Journal of American Medical Association:

CVD weight watch

Cleveland Clinic hooks up with Weight Watchers

Cleveland Clinic is taking cardiac health seriously. It runs a completely smoke-free shop and serves on trans-fat free food. Recently, the clinic offer free Weight Watchers program to any employee enrolled in an in-house health plan. Employees also gets access to weight management programs, fitness centers and smoking cessation programs at no cost.


CVD lifestyle watch

“It’s summertime! Make living heart healthy!”

The American Heart Association is giving tips on how to enjoy your summer while keeping your heart healthy. These tips include safe and heart-healthy activities, and heart-friendly recommendations for the grill. Read more.

CVD biotech watch

“New Molecular Trigger Described for Hypertension, Diabetes”

Development of hypertension, immune problems, and diabetes may be due to enzymes gone awry, according to a report in the June 30 online issue of the journal Hypertension. This new mechanism has been observed in laboratory studies on rats at the University of California, San Diego.

Source: HealthDay News

CVD cholesterol watch

Memory in Old Age Linked to HDL Levels Now

ABC News tells us how “good” cholesterol HDL benefits not only our heart and blood vessels but also our brain. There is even a video clip to watch.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.