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Lowering Your LDL Cholesterol With Niacin

Aug 17, 2007
Have you got your lipid profile checked yet? If not, you need to do so as soon as possible. You may wonder why, and what this is all about. It is about lowering the cholesterol level in your blood so as to reduce the risk of getting a coronary heart disease, which may prove fatal, if left untreated.

In this context, it is essential for you to understand cholesterol and its role in keeping your heart healthy. Being a fatty lipid, steroid and an alcohol, cholesterol is one of the most important components found in your body tissues and blood plasma. Too much of it, however, can be extremely harmful, to the extent of gradually clogging your arteries and finally stopping your heart from functioning.

What is Cholesterol?
The main sources of cholesterol in your blood are your liver and food. Most of the cholesterol is produced in the liver. The rest of it gets into your blood through foods rich in animal fats, like meat, egg yolk, and dairy products made from whole milk.

Cholesterol gets attached to protein complexes, called lipoproteins, which transport it. There are two main types of cholesterol: one good, the other bad, in relation to the health of your heart.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is the good one. It gets transported from the various organs and tissues to the liver, where it is broken down and from where it is sent for excretion.

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the bad one, gets carried from the liver to the tissues and organs, including the heart. Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol coupled with high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood obviously result in increased quantities of fatty lipids getting deposited on the walls of the arteries, narrowing them (or even blocking them) and thus affecting the free flow of blood to the heart and from it. Finding out the levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol along with triglycerides, a type of fat, you can get your lipid profile. If the second is high and the first is low, you have a high cholesterol ratio unfavorable to your heart's health. If added to it you have high levels of triglycerides, your heart runs a very high risk of getting diseased.

Lowering your LDL Cholesterol

Lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while simultaneously raising the levels of HDL cholesterol thus becomes imperative for a healthy heart. This can be achieved through diet, exercise and drugs. Of these, the last one has been found to be most effective. Avoiding animal fats in your food and doing physical exercise regularly may be useful, no doubt. But a particular Vitamin B called niacin works very well in lowering the LDL cholesterol, raising the HDL cholesterol as well as reducing the triglycerides.

Niacin is another name for nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. This wonder drug, first used more than forty years ago, has been found to retard the production of a protein that carries LDL cholesterol and triglycerides from the liver to the heart and other organs. The result is obvious: lower levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Niacin has also been found to be the most effective drug for increasing the good cholesterol. In combination with some statins like lovastatin, niacin has been found to be much more useful in lowering the LDL cholesterol.

Similarly, niacin and fibrates work better when used together. In particular, a type of niacin that slows or extends its own release into the blood stream, called the extended-release niacin, in combination with statins or fibrates, is very useful in controlling serum cholesterol. Dieting and exercise may work in some cases, but niacin works in all for cholesterol management.

There is just one thing to worry about in the use of niacin. It causes flushing or redness as well as a few other side effects such as increasing plasma glucose and uric acid levels in some patients. Niacin has therefore to be used only with the advice and under the supervision of a doctor, who will help in the management of these side effects.

Get your lipid profile and if you find it shows elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in it, ask your doctor if niacin will help. You will be happily surprised when he concurs.
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