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Strategies for Lowering LDL
Old 12-06-2012, 03:26 PM   #1
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Strategies for Lowering LDL

I had my annual physical earlier this week and I have been pleasantly surprised with the results in general.

Before retiring, my triglycerides were too high, my HDL was too low, LDL was too high, glucose levels were over 100, and my blood pressure was too high.

Two years into retirement, my triglycerides are as low as ever, my HDL is close to the middle of the reference range, my glucose levels have fallen to the bottom of the reference range, and after monitoring my blood pressure several times a day over the past week, I average 120/82 with no reading over the 140/90 threshold. Though lower than they used to be, my LDL levels remain stubbornly high (160) however. The progress was achieved without medication. My weight is slightly down as well - BMI is now ~ 23 - and I have lost 2 pant sizes so I lost weight in the right place.

Now, I believe that I have a genetic pre-disposition to high cholesterol through my dad's side of the family (though no-one has died prematurely from heart disease for several generations), so I would not expect to bring it below 130 -the top of the reference range- without medication. But I would like to bring it down about 20 points using a holistic approach.

I walk quite a bit (5+ miles a day) and eat way better than most people I think. I thought that moving towards a diet less reliant on animal products would help but previous attempts have not proven successful (minimal change in LDL levels and a substantial increase in frustration level ).

I have been told to eat more almonds, cinnamon, and a host of other supposedly heart-healthy foods. Has anyone had success with any LDL-lowering "miracle food" or supplements?
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:12 PM   #2
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My friend the thoracic surgeon, says niacin. I have received my high cholesterol from my Mom, I eat a 95% vegan diet, and I can just barely keep my total under 200. I don't do niacin myself, but have found Red Rice Yeast to help for me, your mileage may vary.


Not intended as medical advise.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:27 PM   #3
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I would change the diet to more veggie (raw) based diet. Add Psyllium husk powder to the regimen every night. Add Fish oil supplement. Reduce meat based diet and continue your exercise, you should be good in 6 months.

My LDL was 210 after a long Prednisone course (ate voraciously and mostly fatty crap). Followed the above mentioned regimen (and still doing it, except exercise) and my LDL is 80.

Niacin is good stuff but only under medical supervision.
Red Yeast Rice is natural/herbal statin. Unrefined/ill-refined form could contain impurities so YMMV. Personally, I wouldn't do either of the stuff and start statin instead. Now, they are a lot cheaper.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:32 PM   #4
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I take red rice yeast (when I remember to). Not sure if it helps or not but a friend swears by it.
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Old 12-06-2012, 05:03 PM   #5
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Thanks for the tips do far. Keep them coming.

I had never heard of that red rice yeast stuff. I will investigate further.
I will ask my doctor what he thinks about niacin. I know that some people swear by it.
Statins: I would prefer to keep that one as a last resort. My dad has been on them for the past 30 years. But there is a debate going on in my home country regarding the benefits of statins. Also, I try to avoid drugs of all kinds at all cost unless they are absolutely necessary.
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Old 12-06-2012, 05:10 PM   #6
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Red yeast rice is actually (chemically) identical to a statin (lovastatin). The only differences are that you're buying it over the counter instead of by prescription, and you're uncertain of the actual dosage delivered.

Quote:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) position is that red yeast rice products that contain monacolin K, i.e., lovastatin, are identical to a drug and, thus, subject to regulation as a drug.
Red yeast rice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 12-06-2012, 05:26 PM   #7
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I assume your avatar is just of some beatnik I don't recognize.

If not, and it is you, get that cigarette out of your mouth!
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Old 12-06-2012, 05:33 PM   #8
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I assume your avatar is just of some beatnik I don't recognize.
You assume right.
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Old 12-06-2012, 05:40 PM   #9
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Some folks swear by a drink a day, I hear

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Old 12-06-2012, 05:41 PM   #10
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@Fired. You say you got your numbers down but don't explain how you got them down other than to say you think you eat better than others with no explanation of what that entails.

As for me, I got my triglycerides down about 30 points and my HDL up about the same eating low carb with lots of animal protein and fat. LDL didn't change. I lost about 16% of my body weight and went from a 38 waist to 34. My LDL is about where yours is but my doctor isn't concerned at all and I am off statins.
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Old 12-06-2012, 05:51 PM   #11
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Some folks swear by a drink a day, I hear

Amethyst
I do drink a glass of red wine with dinner most days.
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Old 12-06-2012, 06:03 PM   #12
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@Fired. You say you got your numbers down but don't explain how you got them down other than to say you think you eat better than others with no explanation of what that entails.

As for me, I got my triglycerides down about 30 points and my HDL up about the same eating low carb with lots of animal protein and fat. LDL didn't change. I lost about 16% of my body weight and went from a 38 waist to 34. My LDL is about where yours is but my doctor isn't concerned at all and I am off statins.
I haven't followed any particular diet. I eat a bit of everything and keep the portions small compared to what is usually the norm (portion sizes: 1/2 a chicken breast or a 6-oz steak for example). I generally avoid fast food, snacks, and processed food. I eat a fair amount of carbs actually (the complex carbs, not the highly refined sugars). My "ancestral diet" consists of lots of carbs and animal fats.

I attribute my better numbers to 1) less stress since retiring, 2) more time to prepare healthy meals from scratch, 3) more time to exercise - walking mostly.
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Old 12-06-2012, 06:30 PM   #13
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I assume your avatar is just of some beatnik I don't recognize.

If not, and it is you, get that cigarette out of your mouth!
That's Jean-Paul Belmondo, a popular French actor, in a 1960 film called À bout de souffle (literally "At Breath's End"). This movie was remade in 1983 with Richard Gere in Breathless.

Back then, of course everybody smoked. Here's another photo of Belmondo with a cigarette.



Bebel (his nickname) is still alive at 79 years. Here's a photo of him taken in 2011. He probably quit smoking some years ago.

There's more about Bebel here: Jean-Paul Belmondo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Old 12-06-2012, 06:55 PM   #14
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That's Jean-Paul Belmondo, a popular French actor, in a 1960 film called À bout de souffle (literally "At Breath's End").
Indeed! Excellent catch.
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Old 12-06-2012, 06:56 PM   #15
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Thanks for the tips do far. Keep them coming.

I had never heard of that red rice yeast stuff. I will investigate further.

Statins: I would prefer to keep that one as a last resort. My dad has been on them for the past 30 years. But there is a debate going on in my home country regarding the benefits of statins. Also, I try to avoid drugs of all kinds at all cost unless they are absolutely necessary.
IMO, much smarter to take Zocor or Lipitor. Somone pointed out that this substance contains a natural statin. In fact, some of it until recently has been spiked by a pharmaceutical statin drug. Now generic, they are cheaper than red yeast rice, and perhaps have not been swept up off the floor comewhere in China. Also, the niacin doses required to do anything makes it a drug too, with its own set problems and controversies. I was all set to relent and start a low dose of Zocor but my new doctor thinks it is not necessary.

Regarding your initial question about dropping LDL, when other numbers are and have been good. I was able to drop from 170 to 130, a bit less than a year apart. I did two things, so I am not sure what helped. I started psyllium supplementing, and I exercised more regularly but also more easy going, ie. not pushing. I stayed on my high fat, high meat diet, more or less the opposite of what some other posters recommended to you. So it is clear that this can be a very individual thing.

The exercise I changed because really intense endurance work is aversive to me. I did it as an athlete, but it was geting hard to keep up. Also, there were lot of threads hyping very intense, once per week workouts, which I felt had to be nuts. The last straw was when some know-it-all busybody who was not a member when he showed up, told me I should be rowing faster. If I've learned anything at all over my lifetime it's that know-it-alls often know nothing, and thus they should be ignored or faded. In his case, I faded him and slowed down further.

You can consider anything you do as part of an iterative experiment, try something, check the results, keep it if it helps, etc.

Ha
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Old 12-06-2012, 07:17 PM   #16
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IMO, much smarter to take Zocor or Lipitor. Somone pointed out that this substance contains a natural statin. In fact, some of it until recently has been spiked by a pharmaceutical statin drug. Now generic, they are cheaper than red yeast rice, and perhaps have not been swept up off the floor comewhere in China. Also, the niacin doses required to do anything makes it a drug too, with its own set problems and controversies. I was all set to relent and start a low dose of Zocor but my new doctor thinks it is not necessary.

Regarding your initial question about dropping LDL, when other numbers are and have been good. I was able to drop from 170 to 130, a bit less than a year apart. I did two things, so I am not sure what helped. I started psyllium supplementing, and I exercised more regularly but also more easy going, ie. not pushing. I stayed on my high fat, high meat diet, more or less the opposite of what some other posters recommended to you. So it is clear that this can be a very individual thing.

The exercise I changed because really intense endurance work is aversive to me. I did it as an athlete, but it was geting hard to keep up. Also, there were lot of threads hyping very intense, once per week workouts, which I felt had to be nuts. The last straw was when some know-it-all busybody who was not a member when he showed up, told me I should be rowing faster. If I've learned anything at all over my lifetime it's that know-it-alls often know nothing, and thus they should be ignored or faded. In his case, I faded him and slowed down further.

You can consider anything you do as part of an iterative experiment, try something, check the results, keep it if it helps, etc.

Ha
Thanks for the insight, Ha. Lots to consider in your post.

I am no athlete, never have been to be honest, so I like the idea of less intense but more regular workouts.

I have never heard of psyllium before but since you are the second poster to mention it, I'll have to look into it.
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Old 12-06-2012, 07:46 PM   #17
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FWIW- I have had ok numbers but wanted to improve them. My LDL went from 114 to 102 basically just by eating whole oat oatmeal with an apple and walnuts thrown in it each day. I want a more comprehensive change in diet but so far have lacked the will power except the morning oatmeal which I eat daily 7 days a week. At least Captain Crunch is out of the pantry.
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Old 12-06-2012, 09:38 PM   #18
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I haven't followed any particular diet. I eat a bit of everything and keep the portions small compared to what is usually the norm (portion sizes: 1/2 a chicken breast or a 6-oz steak for example). I generally avoid fast food, snacks, and processed food. I eat a fair amount of carbs actually (the complex carbs, not the highly refined sugars). My "ancestral diet" consists of lots of carbs and animal fats.

I attribute my better numbers to 1) less stress since retiring, 2) more time to prepare healthy meals from scratch, 3) more time to exercise - walking mostly.
I can tell you what worked for me with regard to getting my LDL lowered, and it is mostly related to diet. Like you, I avoid most processed foods now, but that also includes limiting consumption of most grain products, including complex carbs like whole grains. There is research out there that indicates they may cause problems for many people, similar to the more highly-processed grains. My diet now consists largely of meat, fish, vegetables (lots), healthy fats (coconut oil, tallow from grass-fed beef, butter), eggs, a little cheese, some nuts. After eating this way for a few months, the LDL and triglyceride numbers came right down into the normal range. I also exercise more now than when I was working (mostly long walks, some jogging, etc), and that probably helped too. But I really think the change in diet was the key, for me anyway.
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Old 12-07-2012, 01:24 AM   #19
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I will ask my doctor what he thinks about niacin. I know that some people swear by it.
DW & self fall into that category. She was on a statin (which worked for her) but side effects were bad, and long term effects were scary. She talked to our doc about niacin, and he didn't object. He started her on Niaspan (prescription) but we found we could get the same thing OTC for 1/10 the price. The niacin is working for her as well as the statin, and after 6 months, she was able to reduce the dosage by half with no decrease in benefit. She counters the flush (which subsided after a few months on its own) by taking either vitamin C or an aspirin one hour before taking the niacin at bedtime.
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Old 12-07-2012, 06:46 AM   #20
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The exercise I changed because really intense endurance work is aversive to me. I did it as an athlete, but it was geting hard to keep up.
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I am no athlete, never have been to be honest, so I like the idea of less intense but more regular workouts.
You may be onto the most current trend. The Wall Street Journal kicked up a brou-ha-ha with an article citing research showing the extreme endurance exercise (like marathon training) calcifies arteries over a lifetime. I share Ha's skepticism that short once weekly intense exercise is all we need. But a lot of what I read seems to support the conclusion that moderate intensity, moderate length exercise (be it cycling, walking, jogging, swimming) is good for you. And better yet, is to mix in a few brief sprints. If we want to get ancestral about it, think of walking around hunting for a hour or two and then running for cover from a tiger or chasing down a goat with your spear.
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