Q. I am one of those people who cannot tolerate statin drugs to lower cholesterol. I have taken lovastatin, pravastatin, simvastatin and Lipitor. They make my muscles ache so I cannot exercise.
I am concerned about cholesterol, however. Can you tell me about foods that are heart healthy?

A. Some people are able to lower cholesterol with diet, emphasizing certain foods. One reader shared his wife’s experience. Her doctor was concerned about her high cholesterol. She read about the benefits of walnuts and began to eat ½ cup daily. Within a few months, her cholesterol was much better. The doctor was baffled until she told him about the walnuts.
We have documented the science supporting the heart-healthy properties of walnuts and many other foods, such as almonds, apple cider vinegar, beets, fish oil and many other dietary methods for controlling cholesterol in our new book, Favorite Foods from The People’s Pharmacy: Mother Nature’s Medicine. It is available online at www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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  1. sak
    Reply

    What about Bragg apple cider vinegar for cholesterol and blood sugar control? I have tried lovastatin 10 mg and lipitor 10 mg in past and both cause muscle pain and discomfort. I take 200 mg of coQ10 and 100 mg of flax oil with ligans and 200 mg of fish oil daily. I also include cinnamon in diet when appropriate.
    I have begun to take the vinegar (Bragg) 2x/daily,1 tsp with 1 cup of distilled water each time. I take a daily vitamin, extra B12 and 1000 mg tums. Also I take vitamin D 1x/weekly and monthly vitamin B12 injections. My fasting BS is usually 103-107 and my A1C was 6% on a scale of 4.8-5.6%. I ride the exercise bike 30 minutes/day 5-6 days a week and I walk as much as I can.
    I do yoga at home. I follow 1500 calorie ada with 10 carbs and I keep fat below 45 mg/day (sometimes I slip up). What else can I do to improve myself?

  2. REK
    Reply

    After taking Simivastin for years with excellent results, my leg & thigh muscles ‘locked’ and I could not move. My Dr. has me taking 16 Colestipol tablets a day. They are a challenge to take daily. Welchol is very expensive. Are there any other meds in this grouping that you could recommend my mentioning to my Dr.?

  3. JM
    Reply

    Did I hear you say on a recent radio show that eggs may not be bad for your cholesterol after all or was I just dreaming?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: YOU WERE NOT DREAMING. FOR MOST PEOPLE, EGGS DON’T RAISE CHOLESTEROL.

  4. Christine
    Reply

    The doctors office just called me with my cholesterol results: 192 total chol. Tri.66, HDL 49, LDL 127. So, now, my Cardiologist wants to start me on Pravastatin tomorrow taking one tablet a day.
    I virtually eat no cholesterol and I exercise. However, I have been on beta blockers since July of ’05 after being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm near my aortic root. I have read where beta blockers can cause an increase in cholesterol. I hate taking any meds at all. I eat healthy. Only fish, soy milk and soy products. No other meats. Salmon and tuna are the fish I eat.
    I am wondering if I am fighting a losing battle if beta blockers cause cholesterol to increase and for that I am suppose to take Pravastatin of which I hear can cause some side effects. I will have to take beta blockers the rest of my life. I do remember, however, years ago my cholesterol was at 135 but my ratios were not that good. So, there might be some familial things going on as well with me. I feel like I am in a no win situation. Any suggestions????

  5. gh
    Reply

    To improve cholesterol, should I be taking fish oil, coQ10 and red yeast rice? Or is niacin better, and can you take all that I mentioned or do some have adverse effects when combined? Thank you.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: YOUR DOCTOR MAY BE ABLE TO GUIDE YOU AS TO THE BEST REGIMEN FOR YOU. FISH OIL IS ESPECIALLY EFFECTIVE FOR LOWERING TRIGLYCERIDES; NIACIN IS PARTICULARLY GOOD FOR RAISING HDL. COQ10 SHOULD BE TAKEN WITH ANY STATINS, INCLUDING RED YEAST RICE, BUT DOES NOT LOWER CHOLESTEROL ON ITS OWN. SEE CONSUMERLAB.COM FOR EVALUATIONS OF RED YEAST RICE.

  6. HR
    Reply

    I have tried three statin drugs to lower my cholesterol (290), with severe side effects, had to use two canes to walk with the last one. That’s it for me NO MORE Statins! With medication the lowest cholesterol count I ever had was 239. My LDL is 147, my HDL is 127, I am not overweight, high cholesterol runs in my family. My Dr. says maybe the high HDL counters the bad, what do you think?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: THE RATIO IS IMPORTANT. FAMILY HISTORY OF HEART DISEASE IS ALSO IMPORTANT.

  7. MD
    Reply

    I have been on niaspan since July. My numbers have gone UP. I am to see my doctor next week and have decided to stop it all together but want her to see all this first to make sure it isn’t something else causing the problems. I have nausea, heartburn, extreme thirst to the point of feeling like my throat is on fire. My joints ache. I have headaches. My face swells when I walk for exercise (2 miles or more).
    I know all about anaphylaxis from eating tree nuts – this swelling is nothing quite as drastic – but enough to require ice packs to bring it down. And my airways are not swollen, mostly around my eyes. I am tired all the time. At night my feet tingle. I have pimple like spots on my face, my neck and my legs. I now have 3 unexplained bruises (I have not bumped into anything). I started at 500 mg/day which was increased to 1000 mg/day when my numbers first started to climb.
    I had my blood drawn on Wednesday – We’ll see how bad the numbers are now when I see my doctor next week. I seem to have a history of medications doing the exact opposite of what they are intended to do. It is very frustrating!

  8. C Wood
    Reply

    I use slow release Niacin for cholesterol, and it works. Take at night.

  9. FB
    Reply

    Medical adds on television are making people nuts sending individuals to the pharmacy or the doctor for pills and advice even though there is nothing wrong with them, this practice should be stopped.

  10. Greg B
    Reply

    I used to have very high total cholesterol (in the 350 range), and reduced it to a total cholesterol level of 185 (including HDL in 65 to 70 range), strictly through diet and exercise. Though I do eat all of the foods on “the list”, I don’t do so intentionally but as a part of a 100% vegetarian diet – supplemented with fish oil.
    For me it began with a paradigm switch – going from eating what I liked and wanted to eat to eating what my body wanted me to eat. Once I gained some knowledge and began asking that question – what does my body want me to eat – my health improved immediately and has continued to improve over the past decade. I’ve gone from 315 pounds to 190 pounds and to a BMI of 24.
    I don’t take any prescription drugs and would only ever do so as a last resort. If I tried all the healthy, natural alternatives and nothing worked, then I’d give pharmaceuticals a try. I truly believe that if people just followed common-sense published guidelines on diet and exercise, high cholesterol, type II diabetes and all related maladies would mostly disappear.
    “Eat food – not too much – mostly plants” is a good starting point. Once people start doing the basics, they see that plant-based foods work such miracles that they continually gravitate more in that direction.

  11. Tom in Florida
    Reply

    I can’t take statins due to muscle aches – now on 10mg Zetia but starting to get muscle aches. Dr. recommended cinnamon. I put some on my cereal daily. Also Q10 and Rx Trilipix 135mg for triglycerides – on it 3 months and no side effects yet. Dr gave me a card so I only pay $5 co-pay for each script. Haven’t had blood test yet but sure feel great.

  12. Wanda R.
    Reply

    When my 9/16/19 blood work showed my cholesterol to be 238, the doctor got out his trusty prescription pad and tried to give me Crestor. I said “give me a sample”. I took 1/2 a dose of 5mg for 3 days and when my muscles started aching, that was IT! They went into the trash and out came my “Best Choices from the Peoples Pharmacy” book.
    I wrote down everything I could find about lowering cholesterol. The list is in my kitchen and it reads: Olive Oil, Fish Oil, Oatmeal, Concord Grape Juice & Certo, Niacin (non flush), Magnesium, CoQ10, Pomegranate Juice (2 oz)., Walnuts, Dark Chocolate, Psyllium, Red Yeast Rice. Each day I try to get a little of all these things on the list and don’t sweat it if I don’t. Well from September 16th to the next blood work on November 20 my cholesterol went from 238 to 205!!! Yahoo. It works! I’ve never doubted you, but seeing it in black and white feels so good. Congratulations Joe and Terry. You done good.

  13. mg
    Reply

    My doctor recommended Co Q-10 for minor aches and pains associated with taking stain drugs. Works well and has other benefits for you heart.

  14. MD
    Reply

    I too can not tolerate statins. However, I have a death allergy to tree nuts so the walnut idea won’t work for me.
    I have tried everything. My doctor tells me that my liver just produces too much cholesterol since my diet is not the cause. So why can’t we figure out why my liver produces too much cholesterol instead of prescribing medications that are designed to stop the liver from one of its main functions – to produce cholesterol?

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