The medicines regulator, the National Institute of Care and Health Excellence (NICE), has recently introduced new guidelines urging doctors to increase the amount of patients that they recommend statins to. Previously, only high-risk patients (defined as those with a one in five risk of having a heart attack), were recommended to be put on statin medication. However, under the new recommendations even low risk patients (those with a one in ten risk, or more) will be advised to start on medication. As age is a risk factor for cardiovascular problems, this effectively means that every otherwise healthy male over the age of 60yrs, and every female over the age of 65 yrs, could be offered statins. This would make another 4.5 million people suitable for statin prescriptions in the UK.

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This has been a very contentious decision and NICE has been accused by many of trying to ‘’medicalise’’ a nation, along with other accusations such as allowing themselves to be influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.

In my opinion, everyone should be looked at as an individual, and I would be wary of any ‘blanket policy’ for those over a certain age. As a Nutritional Therapist, I would always recommend dietary and lifestyle changes as the first step towards prevention of any chronic/degenerative health condition. If caught early enough, risk factors for cardiovascular disease (including high cholesterol) often respond well to dietary changes and targeted nutritional supplements.

Reducing (or preferably eliminating) refined sugars and refined carbohydrates helps to reduce inflammation in the body, and reducing our intake of burnt or fried foods is one way to protect ourselves from excessive levels of dietary free radicals. Inflammation and oxidative stress create damage in the body, and cholesterol is used to ‘patch up’ any damage to our cells, particularly those in our artery walls. High serum cholesterol is, at least in part due, to high levels of inflammation in the body, therefore measures to reduce systemic inflammation would seem sensible as part of an integrative approach to preventing high cholesterol.

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Supplementing with antioxidants such as vitamins A,C,E, alpha lipoic acid and resveratrol, alongside a high-quality omega 3 supplement all help to ward off inflammation. Whilst, eating a wide variety of highly coloured fruits and vegetables ensures that we get a broad spectrum of valuable phytonutrients every day.

Certain strains of probiotic have also been proven to reduce the amount of cholesterol that is produced by the liver. Not only that, but these same strains also reduce the amount of dietary cholesterol that we absorb from our food.Click here to read Jo's post about probiotics and cholesterol.

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