Decoding Cholesterol: Understanding its Role in Human Disease and Effective Lifestyle Strategies for Heart Health

According to the Canadian government, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada1. Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation indicates that nearly 80% of premature heart disease is preventable2. There are many risk factors for the onset of heart disease including:

  1. Diet: Unhealthy dietary choices of foods that are high in saturated fat have been linked to heart disease. Atherosclerosis is a process by which arteries are constricted by plaque sediments. This buildup of plaque from cholesterol and other cellular waste products impedes blood flow.
  2. Unhealthy weight: 60% of Canadians struggle with being overweight. Excessive weight can lead to a host of other disorders but impacts heart health significantly. A simplistic view of obesity is the consumption of more calories that your body can utilize. This can lead to a buildup of unhealthy fats in blood vessels that eventually cause excessive damage.
  3. Stress: Everyone has stress in their lives and in the absence of good coping mechanisms, excessive stress can lead to poor eating choices, poor sleep quality, higher blood pressure and a general reluctance to remain active. These choices can all adversely affect heart health. In fact, a 2017 study published in the Lancet showed that emotional stress was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease3.
  4. Physical Inactivity: Sedentary lifestyles are not good for your heart or your general wellbeing. Exercise maintains mobility and releases important chemicals in your body to maintain health.
  5. Smoking: Chemicals released during smoking cause blood to thicken and can contribute to damage to blood vessels. Smoking is an equal-opportunity threat in that it causes harm to nearly every organ in the body. According to the National Institutes of Health you are more likely to develop atherosclerosis or plaque buildup in the arteries4.
  6. Excessive Alcohol: Too much alcohol too often is correlated with high blood pressure which puts an excessive strain on heart function according to the British Heart Foundation5.

Cholesterol, a fatty substance found in every cell of our body, plays a crucial role in various physiological functions. However, an imbalance in cholesterol levels can lead to serious health issues, particularly heart disease. In this blog, we will delve into the role of cholesterol in human disease and explore effective lifestyle strategies to prevent heart disease. Additionally, we'll examine the potential benefits of vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and red yeast rice in maintaining optimal cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is categorized into two types: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, as high levels can contribute to the buildup of plaque in arteries. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol is considered "good" cholesterol, as it helps remove LDL from the bloodstream.

Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where arteries become narrow and hardened due to the accumulation of plaque. This restricts blood flow and can result in serious health issues such as heart attacks and strokes. Monitoring and managing LDL cholesterol levels combined with supplements that include Niacin6, CoQ107 and Red Yeast Rice7. Vitamin C, Magnesium, Lysine are essential precautionary measures for preventing cardiovascular diseases.

Lifestyle Strategies for Heart Health:

  1. Balanced Diet: Consuming a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help regulate cholesterol levels. Limiting saturated and trans fats is crucial for maintaining a healthy lipid profile.
  2. Regular Exercise: Physical activity is a key component in managing cholesterol levels. Engaging in regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, can raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is essential for overall cardiovascular health. Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, is often associated with higher cholesterol levels.
  4. Quit Smoking: Smoking not only damages blood vessels but also lowers HDL cholesterol. Quitting smoking is a critical step in improving heart health.

While lifestyle changes are fundamental, some individuals consider supplements to complement efforts in managing cholesterol levels.

  1. Vitamins and Minerals: Certain vitamins, minerals and other cofactors such as CoQ108,9, niacin6, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C8, 12-18, Magnesium8,10 and plant sterols, have shown potential in supporting heart health. These can be obtained through a well-balanced diet or a well-designed supplement, or as advised by a healthcare professional.
  2. Botanicals: Herbs such as garlic11, artichoke extract19-21, and green tea extract22-28 have been studied for their potential to positively impact cholesterol levels. It's essential to consult with a healthcare provider before incorporating these into your routine.
  3. Red Yeast Rice: Red yeast rice29-32, a traditional Chinese medicine, contains compounds that may help lower LDL cholesterol. However, its efficacy varies among individuals, and it should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional due to potential side effects.

Maintaining optimal cholesterol levels is crucial for heart health. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and other positive habits, individuals can reduce their risk of heart disease. While certain supplements like vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and red yeast rice may offer additional support, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable approach for individual needs. Taking proactive steps today can pave the way for a heart-healthy tomorrow.

References: Top of Form

  4. Assessment of the Role of Niacin in Managing Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, Elvira D'Andrea, Spencer P Hey, Cherie L Ramirez, Aaron S Kesselheim, JAMA, Apr 5:2(4)e192224, 2019.
  1. Effect of Monacolin K and COQ10 supplementation in hypertensive and hypercholesterolemic subjects with metabolic syndrome, Alberto Mazza, Salvatore Lenti, Laura Schiavon, Ezio Di Giacomo, Monica Tomasi, Roberto Manunta, Gioia Torin, Danyelle M Townsend, Domenico Rubello, Biomed Pharmacother., 105:992-996, 2018.
  1. effect of multiple micronutrient supplementation on quality of life in patients with symptomatic heart failure secondary to ischemic heart disease: a prospective case series clinical study.
  1. Magnesium for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, DiNicolantonio JJ, et al. Open Heart; 5:e000775. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2018-000775, 2018.
  1. The effects of time-released garlic powder tablets on multifunctional cardiovascular risk in patients with coronary artery disease, Igor A Sobenin, Valentin V Pryanishnikov, Lyudmila M Kunnova, Yevgeny A Rabinovich, Danik M Martirosyan, Alexander N Orekhov, Lipids Health Dis. 19:9:119, 2010.
  1. Pfister R, Sharp SJ, Luben R, Wareham NJ, Khaw KT. Plasma vitamin C predicts incident heart failure in men and women in European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Norfolk prospective study. Am Heart J. 2011;162:246–53. [PubMed] [Google Scholar].
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  1. Vitamin C improves endothelial function of conduit arteries in patients with chronic heart failure. B Hornig, N Arakawa, C Kohler, H Drexler - Circulation, 1998 - Am Heart Assoc.
  1. Shati AA, Zaki MSA, Alqahtani YA, et al. Antioxidant Activity of Vitamin C against LPS-Induced Septic Cardiomyopathy by Down-Regulation of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation. Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2022;44(5):2387-2400. Published 2022 May 23. doi:10.3390/cimb44050163
  2. Al-Khudairy, L, Flowers N, Wheelhouse R, et al. Vitamin C supplementation for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 2017, 3, CD011114.
  1. Hemilä H, Chalker E, de Man AME. Vitamin C May Improve Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction: A Meta-Analysis. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2022;9:789729. Published 2022 Feb 25. doi:10.3389/fcvm.2022.789729
  2. Effects of artichoke on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Author links open overlay panel. Mozhgan Moradi a, Ghazale Sohrabi b, Mojgan Golbidi c, Samira Yarmohammadi a, Niloofar Hemati a, Marilyn S. Campbell d, Sajjad Moradi e, Mohammad ali Hojjati Kermani f, Mohammad Hosein Farzaei g.
  3. Effect of Artichoke (cynara scolymus) on cardiac markers, lipid profile and antioxidants levels in tissue of HFD-induced obesity. Maryem Ben Salem,Hanen Affes,Raouia Dhouibi,Slim Charfi,Mouna Turki,Serria Hammami, show all Pages 184-194 | Received 23 Jun 2019, Accepted 16 Sep 2019, Published online: 28 Sep 2019.
  4. Effects of artichoke leaf extract supplementation or artichoke juice consumption on lipid profile: A systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials Hossein Shahinfar, Elham Bazshahi, Mohammad Reza Amini, Nastaran Payandeh, Sanaz Pourreza, Zahra Noruzi, Sakineh Shab-Bidar. First published: 27 September 2021 3
  6. Green Tea and Heart Health, Naito, Yuji MD, PhD; Yoshikawa, Toshikazu MD, PhD

Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology 54(5):p 385-390, November 2009. | DOI: 10.1097/FJC.0b013e3181b6e7a1

  1. Willems, M. E. T. and Foster, C. (2024) Effects of Matcha green tea on heart rate variability and physiological and metabolic responses in young adult female. Dietary Supplements and Nutraceuticals, 3 (1). pp. 1-12. ISSN 2771-5604
  2. Anti-Atherogenic Role of Green Tea in South Indian Smokers, 36 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2024, Venkateswarlu Reddy Kanu,REVA University; Swetha Pulakuntla, REVA University;

Gouthami Karuvalli,REVA University;Sreelatha Aramgam, Morehouse School of Medicine;

Shakeela Begum Marthadu, Sri Krishnadevaraya University; Padmavathi Pannuru, REVA University; Ananda Vardhan Hebbani, Indian Academy Degree College; Kameswara Badri, affiliation not provided to SSRN; Damodara Reddy Vaddi, REVA University

  1. Roles of flavonoids in ischemic heart disease: cardioprotective effects and mechanisms against myocardial ischemia and reperfusion injury Author links open overlay panelHui Xu a §, Shenglong Yu b §, Chunxi Lin c §, Dingjun Dong d, Jianbo Xiao e, Yanbin Ye f, Mingfu Wang a
  2. Tea Polyphenols and Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Health B Zhao - Tea Polyphenols, Oxidative Stress and Health Effects …, 2024 -
  3. Role of Functional Foods in Cardiovascular Diseases, ByShubham J. Khairnar, Mithun Rudrapal, Eknath D. Ahire, Mohini R. Jagtap, Sanjay J. Kshirsagar, Book, Applications of Functional Foods in Disease Prevention, Edition1st Edition, First Published2024, ImprintApple Academic Press, Pages20, eBook ISBN9781003395737 
  4. Low dose red yeast rice with monacolin K lowers LDL cholesterol and blood pressure in Japanese with mild dyslipidemia: A multicenter, randomized trial,T Minamizuka, M Koshizaka, M Shoji… - Asia Pacific Journal …, 2021 - 
  5. Red Yeast Rice for Hypercholesterolemia: JACC Focus Seminar, AFG Cicero, F Fogacci, A Zambon - Journal of the American College of …, 2021 - 
  6. Red Yeast Rice for the Improvement of Lipid Profiles in Mild-to-Moderate Hypercholesterolemia: A Narrative Review, AFG Cicero, F Fogacci, AP Stoian, PP Toth - Nutrients, 2023 - 
  7. [HTML] Red yeast rice for hyperlipidemia: A meta-analysis of 15 high-quality randomized controlled trials, P Li, Q Wang, K Chen, S Zou, S Shu, C Lu… - Frontiers in …, 2022 -

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