Cholesterol is produced naturally by the liver, and everyone has it and needs it to say healthy. But high levels can lead to serious health conditions such as a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol can be caused by a number of things, such as eating a lot of saturated fat, smoking, not being active enough and having too much body fat.
Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan, and author of The Essential Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements, said statins are prescribed to lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
They work by blocking an enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) needed to make cholesterol, so blood levels fall.
Most people who take statins don’t develop side effects, says Dr Brewer, but those that can occur include fatigue, lack of energy, muscle pain or weakness.
She advised: “If your doctor recommends them, you could trial a low dose to see how well you respond.
“If tiredness occurs, this may result from lower levels of coenzyme Q10 – an antioxidant needed for energy production in cells.
“Statins switch off coenzyme Q10 production so that circulating levels fall alongside your cholesterol levels.
“Taking a coenzyme Q10 supplement (eg Ubiquinol 100mg) may help to overcome this.”
Statins also lower production of vitamin D (which is derived from cholesterol) and taking a vitamin D supplement (for example vitamin D3 50mg) may help to avoid side effects too, said Dr Brewer.
She added: “If you are unwilling or unable to take statins, plant sterols are the most effective alternative, blocking cholesterol absorption from the gut to lower circulating levels by around 15 per cent.
“Taking plant sterols with statin medication is more effective than doubling the statin dose, and is another way to help reduce the risk of statin side effects.”
One of the best ways to prevent high cholesterol is to eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s low in saturated fats.
The NHS recommends avoiding or cutting down on the following foods which are high in saturated fat: fatty cuts of meat and meat products, such as sausages and pies, butter, ghee and lard, cream, sourced cream, creme fraiche and ice cream, and cheese – particularly hard cheese.
Other foods to cut down on include cakes and biscuits, milk chocolate, and coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil.
The health body adds: “The government recommends that a maximum of 11 per cent of a person’s food energy should come from saturated fat. This equates to no more than 30g of saturated fat a day for the average man and 20g of saturated fat a day for the average woman.
“Children should have less.
“Check the levels on the foods you’re eating to find out how much saturated fat you’re consuming.”