Check-Up: She’s trying to control her high blood cholesterol
Alison is 56 and has problems with high blood cholesterol. She says that her blood triglycerides are up, and her doctor has suggested she uses omega-3 as treatment.
She has relatives on medicine to control their blood cholesterol and asks if omega-3 is sufficient treatment.
Triglycerides are fats but they’re different fat from regular cholesterol, which consists of high- and low-density lipoproteins.
High density lipoproteins (HDLs) are commonly called ‘good fat’. They help protect us against heart attacks and strokes.
The low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) are the bad ones which clog our arteries and increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and impede a number of other important processes.
Medication for treating high total blood cholesterol and high levels of LDLs has become readily available in most pharmacies in Jamaica, and the most commonly used and most effective group of medications are the ‘statins’ (rosuvastatin, atorvastatin, simvastatin and pravastatin). When there are problems with side effects, ezetrol will help.
Sadly, these medications do not work well when treating high triglycerides, and scientists are still working to provide those that do.
One proven method of decreasing fat in our blood stream is weight loss. When the body loses weight, it loses stored fat and blood levels of the various fat forms will also lower, sometimes quite significantly.
Studies also show that high levels of pure omega-3 can also lower the blood triglyceride levels.
Of course, one has to be careful. Not all omega-3 is good omega-3; some brands even have saturated fatty acids as part of their content, which are to be avoided totally.
For most people with high triglycerides prescription, doses of omega-3 fatty acids which are combined with the substances EPA+DHA or EPA alone can reduce triglycerides by 20 to 30 per cent, and this is according to an advisory from the American Heart Association.
But when given in very high doses, omega-3 can sometimes cause an increase in LDLs. Four grams of prescription-level omega-3 fatty acid medication will lower high blood triglyceride levels.
At the same time, other causes for high triglycerides must be investigated. Conditions such as poorly controlled type 2 diabetes can lead to high blood triglycerides.
Studies show that four grams of omega-3 fatty acids can be safely taken along with statin medications for treating other types of high blood cholesterol.
Please ask your doctor about prescription-level omega-3 fatty acids, for these are different from the regular supplements found on the shelves for sale and perhaps is available at some health supplement stores.
Often, to obtain four grams of the omega-3 fatty acids, up to eight or more omega-3 capsules will need to be ingested daily. Just check the bottle labels for the omega-3 content!
Healthy lifestyle choices are always important in helping control chronic diseases like high blood triglycerides.
n Regular physical exercise.
n Weight loss, if overweight.
n Avoiding sugar, refined carbohydrates and all saturated fats.
n Controlling diseases like obesity, hypothyroidism and type 2 diabetes.
n Eating fish several times a week, especially salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring.
n Stop smoking.
A group of medications called fibrates have also been found to lower blood triglyceride levels. They also moderately increase HDLs, but do not affect the LDLs.
These drugs are not commonly available, although a medication called controlip is available from some local import medical outlets. This medication should be prescribed by a physician.
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