High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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In addition to eating healthily and exercising more, one easy way to lower cholesterol has been shown to reduce the risk of death by 13 percent. The Heart Protection Study (HPS) – a large UK, placebo-controlled, randomised trial – investigated the impact of taking statins. Statins is medication prescribed by medical professionals to lower cholesterol.
For this particular trial, participants were given 40mg of simvastatin – a type of statin – daily, or a placebo.
Between 1994 and 1997, 20,536 patients at increased risk of vascular disease were randomised in 69 hospital-based clinics around the UK.
Vascular diseases affect the circulatory system, including: high blood pressure, stoke, aneurysms, and peripheral artery disease.
These patients were followed up for an average of five years in the study clinics while they continued their randomised treatment.
Five years later, the participants shared information by annual postal questionnaires.
The research revealed that reduction in LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol with 40mg simvastatin daily reduced the risk of death by 13 percent.
Otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol, this type of cholesterol can embed along the artery walls, causing more narrowed arteries.
LDL cholesterol is harmful because it reduces the blood flow to vital organs, such as the heart muscle.
Without an adequate supply of blood to the heart muscle, a heart attack ensues.
Not all cholesterol is bad, as non-LDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol by Heart UK, the cholesterol charity.
Non-LDL cholesterol works by picking up excess cholesterol in the blood and transporting it to the liver where it can be broken down.
In the research study, participants prescribed simvastatin had a reduction in the risk of death because they had an 18 percent reduced risk of vascular events, such as a heart attack.
Furthermore the medication was “well tolerated”, with “no difference in the reports of muscle pain between those on statin versus placebo”.
This research was funded by the UK Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation and by Merck, who also provided simvastatin and matching placebo.
If a doctor thinks it is best for you to take statins, it may be worthwhile.
Heart UK pointed out that “statins work very well”; in some cases, they can reduce LDL cholesterol by 50 percent.
How do statins work?
The charity explained: “Statins work by slowing down the production of LDL-cholesterol in the liver, where it’s made.
“Because the liver isn’t making so much cholesterol, it then takes cholesterol out of your blood to make bile with, so your blood cholesterol levels fall.”
As statins can lead to side effects, it’s best to discuss the risks and benefits of taking statins with your doctor.
If you still need to lower cholesterol levels, but are not advised to take statins, you will need to focus on your diet and activity levels.
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