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  • Red Yeast Rice: Nature's Medicine

    by Dr. Aimee Warren

    Cholesterol is a substance that is required for the body to make and maintain healthy cells. It is also used to make hormones such as estrogen and testosterone and bile acids which help digest food. Too much cholesterol in the body, however, can be damaging to the body leading to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. High cholesterol can be hereditary but many times it is caused by lifestyle choices such as poor diet and lack of exercise. That being said, we can and should incorporate better habits to decrease high cholesterol and keep the prescription medications from taking over the medicine cabinet.

    Getting your bodies moving every day (yes, every day), decreasing saturated and trans fats in your diet (drop that frozen pizza!), and increasing the amounts of whole grains, whole fruits, veggies and fiber are just a few of the changes that can lower cholesterol and keep your heart healthy. Although lifestyle changes are the foundation in keeping your cholesterol in a healthy range, other alternative therapies can be utilized to lower your cholesterol naturally and may help keep you out of the pharmacy line.

    Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Considered essential fatty acids because they are required for our bodies to function normally and they are only available from dietary sources. Omega 3 fatty acids come in the form of ALA, DHA, and EPA. Most experts agree that DHA and EPA are the forms that are most beneficial to our health. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation and also greatly lower triglycerides. Source: 2 Grams per day of fish oil or flax seed oil. Dietary sources include cold water fish/oily fish such as salmon, walnuts, ground flax seeds, broccoli, and spinach.

    Red Yeast Rice: Used for centuries in China as both a food and medicine, red yeast rice is made by fermenting a type of yeast called Monascus purpureus over red rice. It contains chemicals similar to those found in statin medications and works by inhibiting an enzyme in the body that makes cholesterol. In one study performed by the American Heart Association, red yeast rice decreased total cholesterol by 16%, “bad” cholesterol LDL by 21% and lowered triglycerides by 24%. Source: 1200-2400 Milligrams of red yeast rice powder in capsule form daily. Take with food.

    Niacin (Vitamin B3): Niacin has been a well-studied supplement shown to decrease cholesterol. Specifically, it has been shown to lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol). Flushing of the skin is a common and potentially unpleasant side effect of niacin; however taking the slow release form and taking a baby aspirin along with it may help decrease this effect.
    Source: Men 16 milligrams daily; women 14 milligrams daily

    Phytosterols: Also referred to as plant sterol and stanol esters, these are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in plant cell membranes. They are structurally similar to our body’s cholesterol so when they are consumed, they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked and blood cholesterol levels are lowered. Total cholesterol can be lowered by 10%, LDL cholesterol can be lowered by as much as 14%! Source: Recommended amount daily: 1.3 – 2 grams twice per day with meals. Phytosterols are naturally present in small quantities in nuts, vegetable oils, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. You can also get the recommended amount through supplements and fortified foods.

    Always ask your doctor before starting any new medication or supplement. Be well, Aimee Warren D.O..

  • Are You Ready For Heart Health Month?

    From half-marathons to innumerable health fairs to buildings awash in red light, February is the time for heightened awareness of  heart health, and rightfully so.

    While the death rate from heart disease fell 39% between 2001 and 2011, heart disease continues to be the number one cause of death in the U.S. For women in particular, heart disease claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined, according to data from the 2015 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update.

    The Update lends insight into how much more must be done to address America’s heart problems. One in every three deaths, or nearly 787,000 people, was caused by heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. About 85.6 million Americans live with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke. Direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular diseases and stroke total more than $320.1 billion annually, including health expenditures and lost productivity.
    Heart disease prevention is key, according to the American College of Cardiology. The American Heart Association promotes “life’s Simple 7” health factors and behaviors that can drastically reduce risk of developing heart disease, which include not smoking, staying active, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy body weight, and controlling cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Along with proper screening and treatment for heart disease, these steps can help reduce the devastating impact that heart disease has on public health in the United States and around the world.
    Messages need to be strong, repeated, and reinforced to make the changes necessary to keep moving forward. Smoking is an example where enormous progress has been made but more must be done. Worldwide, tobacco smoking (including secondhand smoke) is one of the top three leading risk factors for disease, contributing to an estimated 6.2 million deaths in 2010. And yet estimates are that 16% students grades 9-12 report are smokers, while 20% of adult men and 16% of women continue to smoke.

    Cholesterol is another area where steady improvements have been made but much more is necessary to impact health. According to the 2015 Update, too many people have issues with the serum cholesterol levels. About 43%have total cholesterol higher of 200 mg/dl, while 13% has levels about 240 mg/dl. Nearly one of every three Americans has high levels of LDL cholesterol.

    Regarding hypertension, 80 million U.S. adults, or 33%, suffer from high blood pressure. About 69% of people who have a first heart attack, 77% who have a first stroke, and 74% who have congestive heart failure have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg, according to the American Heart Association.

    At Sylvan Therapeutics, we are dedicated to providing you with quality, 100% made in the USA products to support healthy cholesterol levels. Sylvan has been the sole manufacturer of USDA bulk organic Red Yeast Rice in the U.S. for over a decade. We utilize modern American aseptic manufacturing processes, vigorously test for and prevent unwanted pathogens, heavy metals and other contaminants, and source our ingredients within the U.S. For more information, contact us at 724-543-3900.

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  • Nearly 12% Use Aspirin Incorrectly To Ward Off CVD

    Millions of people take aspirin to lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease, often with the knowledge that aspirin use could lead to gastrointestinal bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke. To avoid these complications, healthcare providers typically do not recommend aspirin for CVD prevention unless the patient’s risk of developing CVD within 10 years is greater than six percent.

    In an effort to learn how many patients used aspirin inappropriately, researchers examined the records of nearly 69,000 patients in 119 practices.  They found that in 11.6% of the cases, aspirin was prescribed incorrectly. Moreover, the researchers found wide variations within the practices, which suggested that important opportunities exist to improve evidence-based aspirin use.

    Inappropriate aspirin use was found to be higher among women above the age of 65 years old as well as among diabetes patients. The results were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

    Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez of the Mayo Clinic commented "The most important message is to recognize that there are people [who take] aspirin believing that they are protecting themselves from having heart attacks when they are actually exposing themselves to the [bleeding] risks of taking aspirin and likely having no benefit at all.”.

  • Depression Twice As Likely To Occur After A Heart Attack

    Adults who have had a heart attack are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives, according to a survey of 164,102 people as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Nearly one in three (30.1%) heart attack patients suffer afterwards from depression compared with 15.0% of those who do not experience heart attacks.

    Similarly, those who have had a heart attack are twice as likely as those who have not to say they are currently being treated for depression. While 8.1% of those who have never experienced a heart attack currently contend with depression, this figure jumps to 16.5% among those with a history of at least one heart attack.

    Other research supports the link between heart attack and depression. Researchers at the Montreal Heart Institute found that those who were depressed were six times more likely to die within six months of their heart attack than those who were not depressed.

    According to Gallup, the psychological aspects of living with illness must be given proper attention in healthcare. Preventing and recovering from a heart attack and subsequent depression often depends on making positive lifestyle choices and having a strong support network.

    Additionally, symptoms of cardiac issues and depression can overlap -- fatigue, disruption of daily routines, sleep disturbance -- so it is vital that caregivers assess and treat heart attack and depression simultaneously..

  • AHA Celebrates 12th Annual National Wear Red Day On Feb 6th

    The American Heart Association has designated February 6th, 2015, as National Wear Red Day to raise awareness about women and heart disease.

    According to the AHA’s site www.goredforwomen.org, heart disease remains the leading killer of women in spite of widespread knowledge of the risks. About 43 million women are affected by cardiovascular disease. Since 1984, more women than men had died each year from heart disease and stroke, and about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year.

    About 80% of heart disease and stroke events among women are preventable, according to the AHA. The association recommends that all women visit their healthcare provider to check their numbers, i.e., blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose. Lifestyle changes are important, including not smoking, losing weight, being physically active, and eating healthy.

    To continue raising awareness about heart disease, the AHA encourages people to "Wear red, Go Red, or paint your community red, and then share your pictures on Twitter with the hash tag #GoRedSelfie through Feb. 28."

    Thousands of Wear Red events, from free cholesterol screenings to Zumba classes to cocktail parties and galas will take place on February 6th. For more information, visit www.Goredforwomen.org or connect via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/goredforwomen.

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  • Genetics Research Links High LDL With Heart Valve Risk

    People whose genes makes them more likely to have high LDL cholesterol levels may also be more likely to develop a common form of heart valve disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

    The study examined data from among more than 35,000 individuals who were part of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE): the Framingham Heart Study, the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, the Age/Gene Environment Study and the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study.

    Researchers discovered a causal association between high levels of LDL cholesterol and aortic valve stenosis, a disease which narrows the valve, restricting blood flow from the heart. Aortic valve disease is the most common form of heart valve disease in North America and Europe. It is also the most common reason for patients to require an aortic valve replacement.

    According to the JAMA article, “Genetic predisposition to elevated LDL-C was associated with presence of aortic valve calcium and incidence of aortic stenosis, providing evidence supportive of a causal association between LDL-C and aortic valve disease.”

    The study is important because down the road, health care providers may choose to reduce LDL levels as an intervention for aortic valve disease. Before that occurs, more research is needed to determine if such interventions are effective, according to the article.

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  • State of the Cholesterol Nation: Levels Are Lower, But Prescription Use Is Up

    America’s 2014 cholesterol report card is out, and the grades are mixed.

    On a positive note, total serum cholesterol levels continue to trend downward as people heed messages from their healthcare providers to pay attention to their numbers.

    But the number of people with elevated cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, and low HDL levels is too high, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association. And, a significant increase in the use of cholesterol-lowering medications is underway, with estimates that up to 12.8 million more people will be prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, including 87% of men and 54% of women 60-75 years old.

    Between 1988 and 1994, the mean serum cholesterol level for 20+ year-old adults was 206 mg/dl. By 2012, the mean decreased 5.3% to 195 mg/dl. But while total cholesterol levels are decreasing, the number of people with elevated cholesterol, elevated LDL, or low HDL levels remains too high, according to the latest data from the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control.

    Nearly 100 million adults have levels of 200 mg/dl or more. Of these, about 32 million have levels at or above 240 mg/dl. Moreover, 7.8% of teens ages 12-19 have levels of 200 mg/dl or higher.

    Back on the plus side, the AHA reported that LDL cholesterol levels decreased significantly over the last three decades. In the late 70s, nearly six out of ten people had high LDL levels (defined as 160 mg/dL or less for low-risk groups, 130 mg/dL or less for intermediate-risk groups, and 100 mg/dL or less for high-risk groups). By 2010, that percentage was down to 27%.

    The decrease is attributable to two factors, according to the AHA. Over the same period, the number of adults who shifted to a low saturated-fat diet jumped from 25% to 41%. Healthier eating and regular exercise, along with other lifestyle changes, are known to influence cholesterol levels.

    However, the drop in LDL cholesterol also is due to a major increase in prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control, since 1988, the percentage of men taking LDL-lowering medications rose from 5% to 25%, the percentage women from 6% to 21%, the percentage of 40-64 year-olds from 4% to 19%, and the percentage of adults above 65-years old from 10% to 39%.

    The trend is expected to accelerate as healthcare providers implement the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines for cholesterol management.  A study by Duke University Dr. Pencina and colleagues published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 12.8 million more people will be prescribed statins for cholesterol management under the guidelines. Many would be adults 60-75 years old. The percentage of men prescribed medications is expected to rise from 30% to 87%, and the percentage of women from 21% to 54%.

    As might be expected, not every healthcare professional agrees that cholesterol medications are the right path to pursue. In a New York Times editorial that generated more than 500 comments, Drs. John Abramson and Rita Redberg wrote that while prescription statins are effective for people with known heart disease, people who have less than a 20% CVD risk within a 10 year window do not receive the same benefit, and in fact, are more likely to experience side effects, including muscle pain or weakness, decreased cognitive function, increased risk of diabetes (especially for women), cataracts or sexual dysfunction.

    Additionally, Abramson and Redberg argued that giving drugs to those who do not have CVD provides a false sense of security. “According to the World Health Organization, 80% of cardiovascular disease is caused by smoking, lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet, and other lifestyle factors. Statins give the illusion of protection to many people, who would be much better served, for example, by simply walking an extra 10 minutes per day.”

    The discussion will continue in 2015, with both sides debating the pros and cons of prescription versus nonprescription approaches to cholesterol management. Please visit www.sylvantherapeutics.com to see the latest news relating to cholesterol and maintaining healthy LDL levels..

  • Is One Plasma Lipid More Likely To Indicate CVD Risk?

    While a high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) number is widely known to be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), are there other combinations of LDL-C, triglycerides (TG) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) that point to an increased chance of heart disease?

    To find out, researchers at Boston University analyzed 20+ years of lipid data from 3,501 participants in the Framingham Offspring Study. All were CVD free at baseline. Participants were placed into eight groups depending on their beginning blood lipid values, and the groups compared to rate their ability to predict CVD risk. The results appeared in the December 2014 issue of the American Heart Journal.

    The study revealed that all combinations of high LDL-C, low HDL-C, and high TG were associated with CVD risk. Only isolated high TG was not independently associated with increased CVD risk.

    According to the study, the group most closely associated with CVD risk exhibited low HDL-C by itself, or in combination with high LDL-C and/or high TG.

    On the other end of the spectrum, high LDL-C alone was associated with only a marginally increased CVD risk. However, the group risk was further increased by the presence of either a low HDL-C or a high TG concentration.

    According to the team, low HDL-C and high TG levels commonly are found together, and are often related to obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.

    The study may have clinical implications. As the team reported, although high LDL-C may be the only risk factor for CVD that can be changed, it’s important to recognize that people with low HDL-C and high TG, in combination with high LDL-C and/or low HDL-C, have a worse prognosis in terms of the relative risk of CVD..

  • Study Suggests Eggs Do Not Impact Cholesterol Levels

    Egg lovers who gave up their favorite food due to cardiovascular disease may have cause to celebrate. A study published in the American Heart Journal found that eggs may not raise cholesterol levels as once believed.

    "Our short-term findings, and the overall weight of evidence, argue against excluding eggs from heart-healthy diets, even among those with actual coronary disease," notes Dr. David Katz, the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. “There may be net harm to overall diet quality and health from excluding eggs from the diet."

    Katz and his team conducted clinical trials of egg ingestion – one with healthy adults, and one with adults at risk for coronary disease – which showed that daily egg intake over a span of six weeks had no adverse effects on cardiac risk factors in these adults.

    In one randomized, controlled, single-blind, crossover trial, 32 adults (mean age, 67 years; 6 women, 26 men) with cardiovascular disease were assigned breakfast with 2 eggs, breakfast with ½ cup Egg Beaters from ConAgra Foods, or a high-carbohydrate breakfast consisting of bagels, waffles, pancakes, or cereal. The trial continued for six weeks, with a four-week washout period. The primary outcome measure was endothelial function measured as flow-mediated dilatation.

    Compared with the high-carb control breakfast, daily consumption of eggs showed no adverse effects on flow-mediated dilatation total cholesterol, blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, or body weight. There were no differences between the subjects eating eggs or Egg Beaters.

    "This study highlights an important consideration: when coronary disease patients are advised to avoid or limit a food or food category, what do they eat instead?” says Katz. “While some alternatives to eggs, such as oatmeal, might offer benefits, others are far more suspect. Many popular breakfast choices are starchy and or sugary, and foods high in starch and sugar are potentially associated with increased morbidity and mortality.”

    Full disclosure: the studies were conducted with funding from the Egg Nutrition Center. Katz and his team are now conducting a study of egg intake by people with Type 2 diabetes, since diabetes is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and consuming excess high-carbohydrate foods can be particularly harmful for these individuals. .

  • CNN Health.com: How can I pick the healthiest brand of red yeast rice?

    CNN Health.com's Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis responded to a question about how to find the best brand of Red Yeast Rice: Expert Answer
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