CHICAGO — New research suggests that a novel medication, bempedoic acid, is as effective as statins in reducing cholesterol. This development could provide a viable alternative for patients unable to tolerate common prescription drugs for this condition.
Approximately 40 million Americans rely on statins to lessen their risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, some users experience significant side-effects including severe muscle and joint pain, headaches, and stomach issues.
“Our findings indicate bempedoic acid may be a valuable therapy for patients who cannot tolerate adequate doses of statins or who need to further lower their LDL cholesterol levels,” says A. Michael Lincoff, M.D., co-author of the study and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
Statins are widely used to hinder the liver’s production of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL can lead to vessel clotting, disrupting blood supply to vital organs such as the heart or brain. The study, involving nearly 14,000 participants, found that individuals taking bempedoic acid experienced a lower risk of significant cardiac events compared to those taking a placebo. The results mirror those seen in patients taking statins, suggesting that different classes of cholesterol drugs may yield similar cardiovascular benefits.
“Cardiovascular disease remains the most prevalent cause of mortality and morbidity in the world,” Lincoff continues in a media release. “Medications to lower cholesterol offer an important tool to diminish this risk.”
Scroll down to see 10 ways to lower cholesterol without medications
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell in the body, and only a small amount is necessary for regular function. Excess cholesterol, however, can lead to fat deposition in the artery walls, elevating the risk of heart disease and stroke. Hormones – the body’s chemical messengers and integral components of the endocrine system – regulate the distribution of fats and proteins throughout the body.
Bempedoic acid — available under the brand name Nexletol — functions by inhibiting a key enzyme called ATP-citrate, which is instrumental in cholesterol production. Its mode of action is similar to that of statins – the current primary medication for high cholesterol.
Data analysis from the CLEAR Outcomes Trial, which enrolled 13,970 statin-intolerant patients, revealed that bempedoic acid decreased LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 21 percent. It also reduced cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, strokes, and procedures to clear blocked heart vessels, by 13 percent. However, whether these beneficial effects are comparable to those achieved by statins when LDL cholesterol is lowered to the same extent remains unclear.
The latest findings were presented at an Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Chicago.
How can you lower cholesterol without medications?
There are several lifestyle and dietary changes that can help you lower your cholesterol levels:
- Healthy Eating Habits: Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods provide essential nutrients without adding excessive amounts of fats or cholesterol.
- Reduce Saturated and Trans Fats: Limit the intake of foods high in saturated fats, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, and avoid trans fats, commonly found in fried foods and commercial baked goods.
- Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, can lower your cholesterol levels. Walnuts, almonds, and flaxseeds are also good sources of omega-3.
- Add Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oats, barley, fruits, vegetables, lentils, and beans.
- Include Whey Protein: Whey protein, found in dairy products, may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement can lower both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, while lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” one. Try to engage in moderate-to-vigorous exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or intense exercise for 20 minutes, three days a week.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Losing excess weight can help lower overall cholesterol levels. Even a modest weight loss can have a significant impact.
- Quit Smoking: Quitting smoking can improve your HDL cholesterol levels, along with numerous other health benefits.
- Limit Alcohol Intake: Alcohol, when consumed in moderation, can potentially increase HDL cholesterol levels. However, excessive drinking can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes.
- Stay Hydrated: While not a direct factor, staying well-hydrated supports overall health, helping your body function more efficiently, including processing cholesterol and fats.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.