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LDL HDL Cholesterol: How to Bring Proper Balance, Pros and Cons of cholesterol, Fish Oil and Niacin

Updated on July 31, 2012

The latest statistics from the American Heart Association show that an alarming number of Americans have an imbalance between LDL and HDL cholesterol. Each year about 30 million prescriptions are written for cholesterol drugs amounting to approximately 20 billion dollars in annual sales. There are two types of cholesterol found in the body which are HDL and LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol in men should be 40 mg/dL or above and 50 mg/dL or above for women. HDL levels over 60 is ideal for both men and women. Levels below 100 mg/dL are considered good for LDL cholesterol.

Prescription cholesterol medications called statins are effective but have many serious side effects which include severe muscle pain and liver damage. The liver produces cholesterol for important body metabolism. It is only when excess cholesterol is present in the body that it becomes a health threat. Statin drugs inhibit the production of cholesterol by blocking a valuable enzyme called HMG CoA, which is needed to manufacture cholesterol. Unfortunately, these medications also prevent the development of key nutrients like CoQ10 which cannot be manufactured without this enzyme.

How to Balance LDL HDL Cholesterol

Another problem with statin drugs is that they have no ability to raise HDL levels (good cholesterol). There are two reasons why it is important to raise HDL cholesterol. First, it helps to bring cholesterol balance by gathering excess LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from the blood and taking into the liver for removal from the body. Secondly, research has found that HDL cholesterol protects the heart and regardless of what level your LDL cholesterol is, you are still at risk for heart disease with low levels of HDL cholesterol.

Diet and Exercise

Research has found that a lifestyle free of cholesterol drugs, with the proper diet and exercise can reduce LDL cholesterol by 40 percent in one year. The diet should consist of wild salmon and a variety of raw fruits and vegetables. Avoid all processed foods which tend to contain dangerous modified fats known as trans-fats. Foods that have been known to have a LDL cholesterol reducing effect are onions, chili peppers, green tea and shiitake mushrooms. It is important to engage in cardiovascular exercise for at least 20 minutes three times per week. If you need a more mild form of exercise you can walk at a brisk pace for 45 minutes 3 to 4 times per week.

Pros and Cons of Niacin Treatment

Niacin is the single most effective way known to lower LDL Cholesterol and at the same time raise HDL cholesterol. It also has the ability to lower triglyceride levels, which are known to increase the risk of disease. However, there are some side effects. To be effective lowering LDL cholesterol a daily dose of between 1000 and 5000 mg is required. Taking this amount of niacin will cause significant flushing and itchy skin within an hour after consumption.

Although this is completely harmless, it can be quite irritating. Drinking 2 eight ounce glasses of water is very effective in diminishing the hot flush symptoms. Another way to ease symptoms would be to start with 50 mg 3 times per day and build up to 3 doses of 500 mg per day. Some experts believe “no flush” niacin to be just as effective. Others have called it the biggest scam in the health industry. Because its effectiveness is so controversial, it’s better to be safe than sorry and go with pure niacin with all its side effects.

Another side effect from niacin that is more serious is liver irritation. Niacin can raise liver function tests but this is usually mild and reversible by lowering the dose of niacin. However, when using high doses of niacin it is important to get the help of a natural health care professional to monitor for side effects that could lead to liver toxicity. You should have liver function tests before taking niacin and weekly while building up the niacin dose. When niacin treatment is used properly, it is among the safest, most effective and inexpensive ways to balance cholesterol levels and prevent against heart attack. Niacin has several other health benefits which include lowering blood pressure, helps with insomnia and anxiety and controls blood sugar.

The natural approach to health care is always the best approach. A proper diet without any cholesterol drugs will in time lower LDL cholesterol levels to normal without harmful side effects. There can be unpleasant, temporary side effects when taking niacin if preventative steps are not taken, but it is the most effective way to bring HDL and LDL cholesterol levels into balance and eliminate the risk of heart attack.


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    • teddi6 profile image

      teddi6 4 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you for such an informative Hub. Took a while for me to find you, but I'm glad I did.

      I don't have a problem with cholesterol, my numbers are relatively low. I think I'm just genetically gifted. To be on the safe side, I started to take Niacin, though some years ago in addition to the dosage incuded in my daily mulivitamin. My bloodwork has always been fine, but are there any signs of liver toxicity that I should look for?

    • stevemark122000 profile image

      stevemark122000 6 years ago from Southern California

      500mg will give you a powerful flush but is very effective at raising HDL which for men should be above 40. This will bring balance to LDL.

    • profile image

      Tall gye 6 years ago

      I'm taking 250 mg of niacin three times a day after each dose I get a slight flush, I tried too take more but the flush is really intense will 700 mg lower bad cholesterol ?

    • jimmylesaint profile image

      jimmylesaint 6 years ago from Metropolis of Life

      BlissfulWriter- as it is a water soluble Vitamin then it should not prove to toxic to the liver, if at all? Not only in the west are our fat intakes out of ratio-due to cooking all foods and even in the hot press of producing oil that denatures the goodness(look for example flax seed oil which is extracted by cold pressing thus keeping all the goodness)One other comment i'd like to add to this informative hub is the question---Too much cholesterol or not enough Vitamin C?

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 6 years ago

      Niacin is a B-vitamin, in particular it is B3. As such, it is considered many times safer than some of the potent pharmaceutical drugs. B-vitamin is water-soluable (as opposed to fat-soluable), so it does not have the tendency of accumulating in the body. Hence, less risk of overdose.

    • profile image

      taulandi 8 years ago

      The first line to balance hdl ldl is through Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC). Quitting your "bad" habits and enhancing the "good" ones will be a help.

      The second line is through the right Diet Strategy. Eating some foods and avoiding some others will help to.

      The third line is when the above two fail; then comes time to use cholesterol lowering drugs.

      The last alternative is cholesterol lowering supplements. They can lower ldl levels and increase hdl.

      Find out more info about increasing hdl and lowering ldl.

    • stevemark122000 profile image

      stevemark122000 8 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment Kenny!

      HDL cholesterol in men should be a minimum of 40 and above. The best way to raise HDL cholesterol is through cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet with niacin supplementation.

    • profile image

      kenny youmans 8 years ago

      have low hdl 33

    • profile image

      How to lower cholesterol naturally 8 years ago

      Other then niacin, you can try Lecitin too.

      Another good way to lower cholesterol is to exercise. 30 mins brisk walking is a good option.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      No matter what I do, my cholesterol hovers around 200. It is very frustrating. Good Hub. Red yeast rice powder has always been helpful in raising my good cholesterol but alas, the bad stuff stayed the same.

    • stevemark122000 profile image

      stevemark122000 8 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment hot dorkage! There is no contradiction. Flushing can be done at dosages lower that those that could possibly lead to liver toxicity. If higher dosages are needed it's still I good idea but should be monitored by a health care professional.

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

      I'm a little confused by your self contradicting statements about niacin. On the one hand you say the flushing is unpleasant though harmless, on the other hand you say that it can cause liver toxicity and needs monitoring. Which is it?

    • Sascha H profile image

      Sascha H 9 years ago from The Netherlands

      A good diet is indeed the best approach! By example, grapefruit lowers cholesterol. There has been a study which found that eating a grapefruit per day, HDL / LDL cholesterol ratio improved nicely.Always good to read hubs like this! Keep up doing the great work.

    • stevemark122000 profile image

      stevemark122000 9 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment Netters and thanks for stopping by!

      Quicksand, vitamin E can be helpful but won't balance cholesterol levels.

      Thanks for your comment Ande. I'm concerned about the additives in farm raised fish, so i recommend wild salmon. If you are still not comfortable with buying fish from the supermarket adding omega 3 from fish oil to niacin treatments is a great idea.

    • Ande Moore profile image

      Ande Moore 9 years ago from Austin, Texas

      good article. what is your opinion of omega-3's/fish oil? I grew up fishing (trout and salmon) so taking pills isn't my idea of healthy but I heard that bounced around alot. I worry about supermarket fish because of additives, so I'm in a bind. Thanks.

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 9 years ago

      I've come across a brand of vitamin E capsules, which is supposed to be a high anti oxidant. At the same time is is also said to keep a check on LDL. What do you think, Steve?

    • Netters profile image

      Netters 9 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

      Very interesting. Thank you for educating me.