Q: I’ve been told to lower my LDL cholesterol level, but I don’t want to take a statin if I don’t have to. What foods can I eat to lower cholesterol? -- George J., Chicago
A: That’s a great question, and the answer applies to everyone, whether or not they have elevated cholesterol or take a statin. You and you -- and YOU -- need to eat foods that promote heart health, protect you from atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke, and keep your brain well-oxygenated so you’re less likely to suffer dementia.
George, your doctor targeted your lousy LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol because when there’s too much of it, it gunks up your arteries and blood vessels, and causes heart disease.
How do you keep your LDL in a healthy range? Eat a good daily supply of legumes (especially fiber-rich beans), nuts (14 omega-3-loaded walnut halves daily), oats (steel-cut, not instant), omega-3-rich fish (salmon and sea trout, two to three times weekly) and plants packed with sterols, such as wheat germ, peanuts, vegetable oils (corn, sesame, canola and olive oils), almonds and Brussels sprouts. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols a day for a year can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10 percent! An ounce of peanuts has 62 mg; a tablespoon of sesame oil, 118 mg; a half-cup of Brussels sprouts has 34 mg. You also can take a 2,000-mg daily supplement.
However, clear that with your doctor. If your doc says trying a dietary and supplement approach makes sense for you, go for it. But statins have more benefits than simply lowering your LDL cholesterol: They decrease inflammation; in fact, that’s more than 40 percent of statins’ benefit. So talk to your doc about your dietary changes, and reconsider taking a statin.
Q: My friend is 28 and was just diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. What can I do to help her? -- Julie C., Akron, Ohio
A: There’s a lot you can do. First, relapsing-remitting MS is the most common form of the disease, seen in around 85 percent of cases, and it’s the most effectively treated. “Relapsing-remitting” means she’ll have episodes of tiredness, numbness, pain and problems with vision and/or balance, but with the right treatment, symptoms will go away and she’ll get back to almost 100 percent for (often, not always) extended periods of time. As the MS Society says on its website, “There are 16 therapies specifically approved for treating and managing MS, and more potential MS therapies in development today than at any other time in history.”
There is no cure, however, for this autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath that covers nerve endings in the central nervous system and spine.
You can help your friend contact the National MS Society (www.nationalmssociety.org) and find a chapter in her area. They can tell her about therapy options, and put her in touch with a community of people with MS so she can gather support and information.
Depression is a frequent challenge when anyone is battling a chronic illness, and with MS the effects on the brain and nervous system can make it even more of a challenge. A sense of community can help her cope with that. In addition, Dr. Mike’s practice recognizes the importance of stress management in handling MS, and of taking 900 mg daily of DHA omega-3 specifically, and eating DHA-rich salmon and sea trout, because more than 50 percent of the fat in the myelin sheath is DHA omega-3.
Then share the words of Zoe Koplowitz, who holds the record for the longest marathon time by a woman, 33 hours and nine minutes, set in 2013. She was diagnosed with MS 42 years ago, in her mid-20s, when there were no amazing medications for her to take: “I’ve done 27 marathons. Exercise and attitude are the keys to having that success. Believe in the finish line, and do what you have to do to get there. It’s your own disease, so OWN it!”
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.