Cholesterol-reducing supplements could be worth a try in the following situations:
1. You have borderline-high cholesterol (total cholesterol 200 to 240 or LDL cholesterol 130 to 160) but no known heart disease. “For people with cholesterol between 200 and 240 who’ve tried diet and exercise already, these supplements are a logical alternative,” says David Heber, MD, PhD, director of UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition. If you have heart disease symptoms with borderline or high cholesterol, see What About a Prescription Drug?.
2. You’ve had side effects from taking prescription drugs for cholesterol. Side effects from these drugs are not common, says Dr. Heber, “but they do occur in some patients.” He believes the action of supplements tends to be gentler.
3. You want to try a prescription drug/supplement combo. In some cases, adding a supplement may improve the preventive effects of your medication; however, always check with your doctor since there could be interactions between your supplement and a prescription drug.
4. Your cholesterol is normal, but you want to try for the optimum: cholesterol under 150. As Dr. Heber notes, heart attacks are almost unheard of at cholesterol levels of 150 or lower. Not everyone can lower her cholesterol that much though. “If we could just get everyone down to 180, we’d be doing great,” he says.