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One of the reasons natural alternatives are not considered for serious health conditions is because there is a general belief in the medical community that serious health conditions require intense treatment, something that natural alternatives lack. In some respects this is true. However, the level of intensity of prescribed medication is the main reason they typically produce unpleasant side effects. The body has to adjust to the sudden extreme modification of its chemical construction. In some cases the side effects are temporary; just long enough for the body to adjust. In other cases, the symptoms are ongoing and disrupt the performance of normal daily activities. The former is the reality of Statin drugs, the current king of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The popularity of Statin drugs (Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, Pravachol, Lescol, and Mevacor) is associated with the significant cholesterol-lowering effect. The low-density lipids (LDL) decrease and the high-density lipids (HDL) increase. These drugs have shown to lower cholesterol by as much as 50% in some people. Statin drugs have also showed some benefit in individuals with high blood pressure. Oftentimes persons with heart disease will be prescribed a Statin drug to help prevent clogging of the arteries.
There are basically two negative aspects of taking Statin drugs: ongoing side effects and cost. With most medications there are side effects. In addition to headaches, nausea, dizziness, and sleep disturbances, taking Statin drugs has also been associated with a depletion of the heart health cell component coenzyme Q10 and memory loss. If you are placed on Statin drugs, your doctor will monitor your liver to ensure that it is functioning properly. Muscle weakness, depression, and heart failure are also a concern for individuals taking Statin drugs. The economics of taking Statin drugs is another issue that causes concern for the 30 million individuals who are prescribed the medication. If an individual is prescribed a Statin drug they can expect to pay at least $100 a month. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance it can still cost from $2 to upward of $30 or more a month.
In the ongoing pursuit of an alternative to Statin drugs, a natural alternative, Policosanol, has emerged and shown significant potential in contending with, if not surpassing, the effectiveness of stain drugs. Policosanol is a sugar extract that has the same cholesterol-lowering benefits of Statin drugs. Although Policosanol is derived from sugar, it will not cause a rise in blood sugar level. The good news about taking Policosanol to lower cholesterol is that there are virtually no side effects and it is inexpensive. In the various trials of Policosanol and popular Statin drugs, as little as 10 milligrams has been found to lower cholesterol as much as these drugs. It must be noted, however, that most, if not all trials to date, have been conducted in Cuba. That has caused doubts over the effectiveness of this substance. Controlled clinical trials in this country, if possible, will go a long way to validate the effects of Policosanol.
Hawthorn is another supplement that is valuable for individuals with high cholesterol. The keys to the success of hawthorn are flavonoids and the oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs). The two components work together to lower cholesterol. Flavonoids are antioxidants that improve blood flow to the heart. OPCs excrete a form of nitric oxide that prevents platelets from being "sticky" and lowers blood pressure. The trials using hawthorn have shown no serious side effects. However, some people may experience nausea, headache, and palpitations. Hawthorn may interact negatively with medications that are prescribed for heart conditions. Hawthorn is available in liquid and capsule form. The recommended dosage for heart health is 80 milligrams in the capsule form and one teaspoon three times each day in liquid form. It can take as many as six weeks for hawthorn to reduce cholesterol.
Since herbs are not considered drugs, they are not tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is imperative that a doctor is consulted before beginning any treatment with herbs. This is especially true if the individual is taking medications. Also realize it could be an uphill battle to get your doctor to give you approval for any supplement treatment as doctors are not normally trained in non-medical treatments.
Copyright (c) 2006 Charles L. Harmon
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