Despite the battalion of drugs and aggressive surgery on offer to anyone with a heart condition, there's plenty of evidence that suggests a change in lifestyle - including a diet that excludes processed foods, and gentle exercise - can be just as effective if not more so. The virtue of this approach is that you are dealing with the underlying problem, whereas conventional medicine can control only the symptoms.
One of the more radical dietary approaches has been developed by Dr dean Ornish, whose 'heart diet' has been used successfully by many thousands of people with a heart condition. A kinder diet is the Montignac diet, which was originally developed for diabetics. This avoids all processed foods, and uses only foods with a low glycaemic count, which, in turn, lowers cholesterol levels.
Other things you can do:
- Eat foods containing high levels of beta-sitosterol, found in most plants, especially soybeans, as they can reduce cholesterol by at least 10 per cent
- Take omega-3 fatty-acid supplements, preferably with vitamin B6
- Eat a high-fibre diet based on vegetables, fruits and nuts (Metabolism, 2001; 50: 494-503); oat bran, apple pectin and psyllium are especially helpful
- Take up to 3000 mg/day of niacin, but beware of overdosing
- Try blue-green algae supplements; they contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids which may reduce cholesterol
- Don't forget garlic (Allium sativum), which lowers cholesterol