High cholesterol puts you at higher risk for serious health conditions, including heart disease, heart attack and stroke. However, some people do not tolerate medications for high cholesterol very well. For these people, it may be beneficial to take supplements such as red yeast rice and fish oil, but only while under a doctor's supervision.
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Fish oil contains essential omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to lower your blood pressure and triglycerides, decrease your risk for heart disease and help to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, some people experience side effects when taking fish oil, including abdominal bloating or pain, upset stomach, heartburn and burping. Fish oil may increase LDL cholesterol, blood sugar and the risk of bleeding.
Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice may help lower both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Some red yeast rice products naturally contain the same active ingredient as statin drugs, however most contain only minimal levels of this ingredient, if any. Side effects from the use of red yeast rice include heartburn, stomach discomfort, dizziness, headache and intestinal gas. More serious side effects include allergic reactions, muscle pain, fever, dark urine, unusual tiredness and weakness. If you are pregnant or have liver problems, red yeast rice is not safe for you.
Red yeast rice and fish oil used together with a 12-week lifestyle change program can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides as much as or more than taking statins, according to a study published in July 2008 in "Mayo Clinic Proceedings." Participants in the supplement group lost more weight than those in the statin group. However, while participants in the statin group received diet and exercise educational materials, they did not attend the lifestyle change program, which could have been responsible for some of the beneficial effects in the red yeast rice and fish oil group.
Only take fish oil and red yeast rice while under the supervision of your doctor, because these supplements are not safe for everyone. Because these are supplements, they are not as well-regulated by the FDA as medications. Choose supplements that have the USP symbol, as these have been verified to contain the ingredients that are listed on the label and have been tested for common contaminants, recommends Consumer Reports.