Can Acupuncture Help?
by Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc
Bartlett is a Licensed Acupuncturist. Board Certified,
NCCAOM. She holds a Master's of Science in Traditional Oriental
Medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, San
Diego and a BA from UCLA. For acupuncture treatments or
herbal consultations, call Kath's Asheville, NC office:
Many have lowered cholesterol by using red fermented rice
(Hong Gu, in Chinese). Chinese red, yeasted rice is a component
of statin drugs. A TCM herbalist can add it to a formula
to aid biliary activity, which emulsifies fats.
The following was reported by Gina Kolata in
the New York Times, July 13, 2004:
Experts Set a Lower Low for Cholesterol Levels
Federal health officials yesterday sharply reduced
the desired levels of harmful cholesterol for Americans who
are at moderate to high risk for heart disease. The new recommendations
call for treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs for millions
of Americans who had thought their cholesterol levels were fine.
Already more than 10 million people take the drugs. But now,
more should start, the recommendations say. For people at the
highest risk, they suggest that the target level of L.D.L.,
the type of cholesterol that increases the likelihood of heart
disease, should be less than 100. That is 30 points lower than
previously recommended. For people at moderately high risk,
lowering L.D.L. to below 100 with medication should be seriously
considered, the report said . . .
The recommendations were published today in the journal Circulation
and endorsed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute,
the American Heart Association, and the American College of
Cardiology. The authors said the change was prompted by data
from five recent clinical trials indicating that the current
cholesterol goals were not aggressive enough and that more intense
drug treatment led to better results. The recommendations, which
modify guidelines set by the government only two and a half
years ago, will increase by a few million the number of Americans
who meet the criteria for therapy with the powerful cholesterol-reducing
drugs called statins, and many people who are already taking
the medications will be advised to increase their doses . .
Perhaps the report's most surprising recommendation concerns
the goal that doctors might set for L.D.L. levels in their patients
at highest risk, those with established heart disease plus another
condition like diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, or a
recent heart attack. For those patients, the report said, there
is a therapeutic option to drive the L.D.L. level to a breathtakingly
low level - below 70 . . . It will not be an easy goal to achieve,
heart disease experts said.
Dr. Scott M. Grundy of the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical School at Dallas, the lead author of the
new report, said, "A standard dose of statins gets most
people close to 100.'' "If you are going to get from there
down to 70, you have to take a high dose of statins," Dr.
Grundy said, "which still might not get you there."
One possibility, he said, is to add another drug like niacin
or ezetimibe, a drug that reduces the amount of cholesterol
absorbed from the digestive tract. But even then, said Dr. Daniel
Rader, director of preventive cardiology at the University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine, many people will not be able
to reach an L.D.L. level of 70. "There definitely are still
going to be people who even with combination therapy can't get
their L.D.L. level into that range," Dr. Rader said . .
Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of the Cardiovascular Institute
at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, predict that
the optimal levels for L.D.L. cholesterol will go lower still.
Several clinical trials now under way are expected to provide
even stronger evidence of the value of intense cholesterol lowering,
Dr. Fuster and others said. Dr. Fuster added that in the future
even L.D.L. levels of 70 will seem too high for those at greatest
risk. "I can predict that the guidelines will be modified
to be more and more aggressive and it will happen in the next
three years, if not earlier," Dr. Fuster said.
Many people ask me about treating high cholesterol with Traditional
Chinese Medicine (TCM: acupuncture, Chinese herbs and dietary
therapy). This is tricky because high cholesterol is a silent
disease, meaning there are no presenting symptoms. Western medicine
insists on lowering cholesterol because the increased arterial
plaque associated with high cholesterol puts patients at risk
for heart disease and stroke. (However, there are studies that
show high lipid (fat) levels are only fifty percent predictive
of heart disease.) High cholesterol is really a symptom of how
one has led his/her life: Has s/he maintained a healthy lifestyle?
It's difficult to make up for 50-60 years of poor dietary choices
and lack of exercise.
From a Chinese point of view, acupuncturists work with patients'
diets to eliminate fried, greasy foods, dairy products, caffeine,
refined sugar, alcohol and smoking. I've seen research showing
that increased vegetable consumption lowers risk of disease. For
instance, olive oil has been credited with a lower instance of
heart disease for Greeks. But this olive oil is consumed on high
quantities of fresh vegetables. In countries like Scotland and
the U.S. vegetable consumption is low, and the heart disease rate
is high. Of course other factors, such as stress, play a part.
"The Eight Week Cholesterol Cure, How to Lower Your Cholesterol
by up to Forty Percent Without Drugs or Deprivation" by Robert
Kowalski suggests a dietary plan for lowering cholesterol. Stay
on the diet for three months, then re-test, followed by six months
and then one year if cholesterol levels stay low. (You can order
the book at Barnes and Noble.)
Many have lowered cholesterol by using red fermented rice (Hong
Gu, in Chinese). Chinese red, yeasted rice is a component of statin
drugs. A TCM herbalist can add it to a formula to aid biliary
activity, which emulsifies fats. It is also available as a supplement.
An easy alternative to drugs for lowering cholesterol is Green
tea and Essential Fatty Acids. Drink 3-4 cups a day of green tea
and 9-gel caps (or 3 Tablespoons of liquid) daily of EFA's. Plant
or fish oils will work. Personally, I prefer a high quality flax
seed oil stored in the refrigerated section of the natural food
store. According to Jacqueline Bardini, Doctor of Pharmacy, "Flax
oils do all the things omegas do . . . fish oils can has a fishy
taste, and I am concerned about high mercury levels in some fish"
(due to polluted oceans.) Re-check blood lipid levels after 3
months of therapy
An interesting non-drug therapy I've read about is a supplement:
policosanol. Policosanol is a natural supplement make from sugar
cane, and is only $10-$20 $15-$30 a bottle/month (compared to
$100/month for statin drug therapy). Unfortunately, it comes from
Cuban sugar cane, which apparently is banned from the U.S. for
political reasons. I am researching finding a source for policosanol.
Meanwhile, take Take a look at this summery of research about
policosanol by Glenn Smits, Licensed Acupuncturist. There are
many more positive effects of policosanol I've not included for
brevity, including reducing the overgrowth of cells lining artery
walls that narrow diseased arteries and inhibiting the formation
of clots. Policosanol does not seem to interfere with heart medications
or other drugs:
Heart attack and stroke have been associated with high levels
of a type of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
("bad" cholesterol) and low levels of high-density lipoprotein
(HDL) ("good" cholesterol). Reversing these trends can
lower the risk for these and other artery-related diseases.
Policosanol is a supplement that can normalize cholesterol as
well or better than drugs, without side effects. (1) Efficacy
and safety have been proven in numerous clinical trials, and it
has been used by millions of people in other countries. Policosanol
can lower LDL cholesterol as much as 20% and raise protective
HDL cholesterol by 10%. This compares
favorably with cholesterol-lowering drugs, which have the drawback
of side effects such as liver dysfunction and muscle atrophy.
Policosanol is free of these side effects.
Policosanol works by blocking the synthesis of cholesterol. Its
exact mechanism is not known.
Policosanol has undergone as many clinical trials as most drugs.
In studies on people with high cholesterol at high risk of heart
disease, policosanol lowered LDL cholesterol 20% in 6 to 12 weeks
at 10 mg/day. Total cholesterol was reduced 15%, and HDL increased
7%-28%. Taking 20 mg/day reduced LDL about 28%, total cholesterol
about 20%, and elevated HDL 7%-10%. The 10 mg dose has undergone
long-term testing (2+ years), with no ill effects reported. The
20 mg dose (and higher) is still undergoing long-term trials.
1. Mas R, et al. 1999. Effects of policosanol in patients with
type II hypercholetserolemia and additional coronary risk factors.
Clin Pharmacol Ther 65:439-47.
If you have a question you would like answered about acupuncture
or Chinese herbal medicine, please e-mail Kath Bartlett, L. Ac.
at email@example.com or call Asheville Center of Chinese Medicine
Kath Bartlett, Licensed
Acupuncturist. Board Certified, NCCAOM. Master's of Science
in Traditional Oriental Medicine, Pacific College of Oriental
Medicine, San Diego. BA UCLA. For acupuncture treatments or herbal
consultations, call Kath's Asheville office: 828/258-2777