Dietary Supplements that can define a heart-healthy diet
American eat only a fraction of the amount of fiber that is considered ideal. This is unfortunate because fiber from food or supplements can help to lower your cholesterol. It also helps to slow digestion, which can prevent surges in blood sugar. For this reason, fiber can be very important for those with prediabetes or diabetes who need to control their blood sugar. It is also essential for good bowel function. If you are on the go or are concerned that you are not regularly getting enough fiber from your diet, fiber supplements such as psyllium, methylcellulose, and polycarbophil are safe and effective. Just be sure to take them with plenty of water.
Omega-3 Supplements (Fish Oils)
At the present time, few supplements have been established as being safe and effective additions to cardiology care. One that has and that stands out as a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle is omega-3 fatty acids, also known as fish oil. The active ingredients in omega-3s are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and both are listed on the label. A total of between 1,000 and 2,000 milligrams of fish oil a day is recommended. If you eat a lot of cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, and sardines, however, a supplement may not be necessary.
Omega-3s are a safe and effective way to lower significantly elevated triglycerides, but they must be taken at a much higher dose than that suggested above. A prescription omega-3 was introduced under the name Omacor. Because it has a high level of quality assurance, I now prescribe it for my patients with high triglycerides.
Plant Sterols and Stanols (Phytosterols)
Other natural substances with proven efficacy are stanol esters and sterol esters. These plant extracts (known collectively as phytosterols) have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol. They are sold as dietary supplements in softgel form in health-food stores and are added to foods such as margarine, snack bars, and salad dressings. Plant sterol esters and plant stanol esters are structurally similar to cholesterol, and because of this, they block cholesterol absorption in your small intestine. In this way, the esters act like the medications we described on the previous pages that decrease cholesterol absorption and thereby lower cholesterol levels in your blood. They are very safe and have no apparent side effects.
Supplements and medications are not magic solutions. And while they are invaluable components of my prevention strategy, they should not be a replacement for a healthy lifestyle. The earlier you adopt a healthy living, the lesser the need for medications to prevent a heart disease.
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