Last week we discussed cholesterol and the debate about when and what type of treatment is necessary. Now what do you do when it is clear that high cholesterol is a health concern? One thing you can do is put your numbers in this calculator and see what the standard medical community thinks: are you at risk?
Remember, if your risk of heart disease or stroke over the next 10 years is over 5 to 7.5%, a medication in the class of "statin" will be recommended. Check your numbers yourself with your last cholesterol reading and a recent blood pressure.
Play with this this calculator, look at how high your risk is now, then age yourself 5-10 years on the calculator. This tells you that even with numbers that are low risk now, age itself is a powerful risk factor for heart disease and in ten years you may be talking statin medications with your doctor if you don't get a hold of the factors that influence your health now.
This week we will start our supplement spotlights. When people go to the health food store to look for alternative options to standard prescription on cholesterol they will encounter a selection. How do you know what to choose? I will give you a review of a few of my favorites over the next few weeks.
Please remember these statements are not supported by the FDA and supplements are unregulated. Do not purchase supplements for cardiovascular disease without consulting your physician (or come see me, Dr Brie!) to see what is right for you. Supplement quality varies greatly, buying pharmaceutical grade supplements that are third party tested and verified are best. I have options for these quality therapeutic brands, and pass along the whole sale costs I receive to current members. It is always best to check with your doctor before purchasing something at a grocery store or GNC.
Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice is a supplement made from fermented rice. It creates a mold that grows a compound very similar in structure to statin medications. In fact, it is considered a naturally occurring statin compound. Statins and Red Yeast Rice, act on the liver to help decrease cholesterol production.
What is good about RYR?
Red yeast rice is good because it does act as a "weak statin". It will help decrease cholesterol production in the liver. It may have the other benefits that the statin class of medications has as well such as lowering inflammation and stabilizing plaques although further research is warranted. If your doctor says that you really "should" be taking a statin but you choose not to, this is good option. This treatment option primarily targets lowering your LDL or dangerous cholesterol. Some studies have shown that people who are statin-intolerant have been able to take RYR without untoward side effects, making it an important alternative option.
What is bad about RYR?
RYR quality varies a lot. There a an excellent consumer lab that reviews and verifies that supplement ingredients compared to labeling and detects for contamination. This review of RYR shows significant variation in quality referencing standard available store brands.
The consumer lab review shows a Whole Foods brand that is contaminated with citrinin, a potential toxin, and other brands that have unusually low amounts of the effective component, the monacolins. Some would argue that if you are going to take a statin, you might as well take one that is regulated, tested, and formulated to be exactly what it should be, not something in disguise. The other problem is that this medication has one strength, and at that dose it might not be enough to make the clinical impact you want to see.
As with all statin medications, RYR can deplete your body of the anti-oxidant coenzyme Q10. If you are taking RYR or a stain, it is best to take it wth CoQ10 because it can lower your risk of side effects such as muscle soreness that can come along with the medication effect.
The Bottom Line:
Red yeast rice might be good if you feel very strongly that you want a natural supplement and not a pharmaceutical. However, the quality of the RYR over the counter counter is variable so do your research or ask me where you can purchase wisely. If your cardiovascular disease risk is high, it may be safer and more cost effective to consider a traditional statin medication along with CoQ 10.
Information in this article references the following studies: