Many wish to try the natural approach before beginning a prescription medication regimen to treat elevated cholesterol levels (hyperlipidemia). The top natural methods for lowering cholesterol are listed below. Many who consider the potential risks of taking prescription medications are unaware that supplements also have the potential for side effects. This is especially true for cholesterol lowering supplements since one type contained the same chemical found in a prescription cholesterol lowering drug.

Why Doctors Often Recommend Medications Rather Than Supplements for High Cholesterol

There are many factors that go into a patient’s treatment plans. When it comes to treating high cholesterol, physicians consider individual patients, approved evidence-based treatments and patient trends. Though lifestyle and dietary changes often significantly improve patient lipid profiles, doctors often see trends of non-compliance to this recommended treatment regimen. Therefore, the go-to treatment is often a prescription cholesterol altering medication. Also of important note is the lack of regulation of supplements whereas prescription medications are manufactured to exacting standards.

Niacin for Lowering High Cholesterol

Niacin is also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3. It can raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels. No-flush niacin supplements are chemically different. They are not known for being as effective as regular B3 for altering lipid profiles. Niacin must be taken in a large enough daily dose to have a pharmacological effect if it is going to work as well as a prescription cholesterol altering drug. The problem is that niacin in higher doses has some very negative potential side effects, including liver damage. Correspondingly, this is also a potential side effect of different prescription drugs used to treat high cholesterol.

Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is touted for its ability to lower bad cholesterol (LDL). It is made by mixing Monascus purpureus yeast with red rice and letting it ferment. The interesting thing about this concoction is that it naturally contained a chemical called monacolin K. This chemical happens to be the active ingredient in the cholesterol lowering drug lovastatin.

Since red yeast rice supplements actually contained the same chemical as a prescription drug, the Food and Drug Administration removed them from the market. Formulations of red yeast rice legally available in the United States should be devoid of monacolin K. However, there is no guarantee that red yeast supplements would or would not have this chemical. Plus, not being manufactured to the exacting standards that medications are, it would be easy to get too much or too little of the chemical if it is present.

Fish Oil for Lowering Cholesterol

Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-hypertension (lowers blood pressure) and the ability to alter cholesterol by lowering triglyceride levels. An interesting note is that fish oil is the only supplement that has been turned into a prescription drug to treat cholesterol issues. Lovaza is the brand name of the drug. The active components of fish oil supplements that alter lipid levels are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Whereas supplements may not contain precise amounts of these ethyl esters, the prescription drug does. This makes physician recommended dosing easier to accomplish.

A healthy lifestyle that includes eating right and getting the correct amount and type of exercise is critical. However, when it comes to hyperlipidemia, genetic factors also play a role. A person can eat right and never fail to exercise on a regular basis and still have issues with high cholesterol. This is where pharmacological intervention can help. Statin drugs are one of the most prescribed drugs on the market. Physicians may even recommend some supplements to be tried to see if they work, or they may order a combination of a statin and supplements. The key to managing high cholesterol is working with a knowledgeable physician and staying in compliance to recommended treatment options of which dietary supplements may play a role.