Every 40 seconds. That's how often someone somewhere in the United States dies from heart disease. That adds up to nearly 600,000 American deaths every year, making cardiovascular disease the nation's No. 1 killer.
Heart problems also fuel a multibillion-dollar drug industry that provides cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and other medications to millions of Americans. But if you're looking for a way to lower cholesterol and boost your heart health without the potential risks of pharmaceuticals, there are several potent natural alternatives.
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Among the best options: plant-derived compounds called phytosterols that have been shown to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol without the side effects some people experience with statins and other drugs.
Foods rich in phytosterols include unrefined vegetable oils, nuts, legumes, and whole grains such as corn, rye, and wheat. According to the prestigious Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, such plant sterols — which are similar in structure and function to human cholesterol — were a key staple in early human diets. But that is no longer true today.
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That's why phytosterol supplements may be a good option for many Americans, experts say. They can be taken in combination with other heart-healthy vitamins, such as niacin, thiamine, and CoQ10.
Renowned cardiologist Dr. Chauncey Crandall, author of Newsmax's Heart Health Report, recommends phytosterols as a good way to promote heart health, along with following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Crandall explains that the typical American diet — which is high in heart-damaging sugary, high-carb processed foods — is relatively low in phytosterols and doesn't come close to hitting the levels needed to boost cardiovascular health.
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Even though many clinical trials have demonstrated that daily consumption of foods enriched with these compounds lower LDL cholesterol, Crandall notes: "The problem is that the average American diet contains only about 10 percent of the amount [that's needed]. The food industry has created many products, such as margarines, that contain plant sterols. But these products also contain unwanted ingredients [artificial flavorings and chemicals], so you are better off taking a supplement."
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