Cholesterol is only one of numerous risk factors for heart disease. However, physicians can’t do much about some of your other risk factors, such as your family history. They can prescribe medications that will lower your cholesterol. Many people are reluctant to take a statin drug because they worry about possible side effects. Can you find other approaches to get your cholesterol down?

How Can You Get Your Cholesterol Down?

Q. Thank you for your advice on controlling cholesterol. I’m a 77-year-old woman of normal weight. My cholesterol hovered around 200, even with a strict diet and getting plenty of exercise. Total 197, HDL 77, LDL 101.

My primary doctor said this must be hereditary and wanted to put me on a statin. Instead, I started taking red yeast rice and sprinkled at least 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and at least 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper (to improve absorption) on each meal.

After doing this for about four months, continuing my exercise and strict diet, my total cholesterol dropped to 162, HDL 77, LDL 76 and triglycerides 47. My pharmacist confirmed that red yeast rice would not interfere with any of my other medications. I hope this helps others.

What Red Yeast Rice Does:

A. We are impressed with your results. You were not in bad shape to start with. An HDL of 77 is considered excellent. So are your other lipid levels.

Not everyone agrees that, as an older person, you would need to get your cholesterol down as much as possible. However, you seem to have found the right approach.

Red yeast rice contains natural statins. A meta-analysis of 13 randomized, placebo-controlled trials concluded that “red yeast rice is an effective and relatively safe approach” for high cholesterol (Li et al, PLOS One, June 4, 2014).

The other agent you used to get your cholesterol down is also interesting. The active ingredient in turmeric (curcumin) has been shown to reduce triglycerides and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol (Simental-Mendia et al, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, online, Nov. 29, 2017).

Learn More:

You can learn more about red yeast rice and other nondrug approaches in our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health. It was wise of you to check with the pharmacist about interactions. Many natural products can interact with prescription medications.

Related People's Pharmacy Health Guide

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