Cholesterol Control: Statins vs. Plant Sterols
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits and eating foods that increase HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol are good for your overall health. But these steps may not be enough for you. If your LDL cholesterol levels remain high after you improve your diet and exercise habits, you still have work to do to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Two possible options are statins and plant sterols. Statins are medications prescribed by a doctor, and plant sterols are substances found in certain plant-based foods.
Let’s look at how these options compare in lowering cholesterol levels.
How do statins work?
Statins work by lowering levels of LDL cholesterol in your body. They do this by reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol that your liver makes. Statins also help your body reabsorb any cholesterol that’s built up in your arteries.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology guidelines recommend statins for certain people. These are people who:
- have an LDL level of 190 mg/dL or higher
- already have cardiovascular disease
- have diabetes, are 40–75 years old, and have an LDL level between 70 and 189 mg/dL
- don’t have diabetes, are 40–75 years old, and have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years
How do they compare?
Both statins and plant sterols help lower (bad) LDL cholesterol levels. Statins are the gold standard for drug treatment, and sterols are thought to be one of the best natural options to combat high cholesterol. Let’s see how else they compare.