High cholesterol is not a disease in itself, but it may be linked to serious conditions, such as cardiovascular conditions (disease of the heart and blood vessels), angina, stroke, and mini stroke, known as transient ischaemic attack (TIA). Together with a high level of triglycerides, it may increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
It is worth noting that the recent emphasis on cholesterol as a fundamental risk factor for disease is being questioned but balanced cholesterol levels remain a goal for good health.
How can we help?
Chinese Medicine has a long history of effectively treating cardiovascular disease (CVD), often linked to high cholesterol levels. Modern research seems to validate the cholesterol-lowering properties of many Chinese herbs and the effectiveness of Acupuncture, particularly when used alongside mainstream treatments. Researchers suggest that an integrated approach, combining Eastern and Western modalities, might yield better outcomes than standard drug therapy alone.
Chinese Medicine is thought to help manage blood cholesterol levels primarily by activating the nervous system which, in turn, regulates cholesterol production in the liver and its concentration in the bloodstream while also inhibiting lipids absorption.
Chinese Medicine treatments for high cholesterol aim at targeting the root cause of the condition, are tailored to the patient’s individual health needs and are determined following a full Chinese Medical diagnosis and consultation. Typically, they consist of a comprehensive regime that includes Acupuncture and highly personalised herbal formulas, alongside lifestyle and diet recommendations.
How quickly will you see results?
The minimum course of treatment we recommend to start seeing consistent results is usually 4 weeks.
The time and number of treatments needed will vary from patient to patient, according to their overall health conditions, constitution and response to the therapy. Hence, there is no set period of time in which cholesterol levels are guaranteed to drop. Lifestyle and dietary changes can greatly help and speed up the process, especially when implemented alongside the prescribed treatment course.
About High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a crucial building block in cell membranes and an essential substance for the body’s normal physiological functions. 80% of the cholesterol in your body is made by the liver while the remaining 20% comes from the food you eat.
There are two types of lipoproteins responsible for carrying cholesterol to and from cells:
LDL – Low-Density Lipoprotein, commonly known as ‘bad cholesterol’.
It’s in charge of delivering cholesterol to the tissues around the body. High levels of LDL are associated with fatty build-ups in the arteries and an increased risk of strokes and heart disease. Ideally, LDL levels should be under 130mg/dl.
HDL – High-Density Lipoprotein, commonly known as ‘good cholesterol’.
It’s in charge of carrying excess cholesterol away from the bloodstream and back to the liver to be broken down and disposed of. High levels of HDL are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Ideally, HDL levels should be over 40mg/dl and also higher than 20% of total cholesterol.
Hypercholesterolaemia or high cholesterol occurs when ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL) exceeds 130mg/dL or the total cholesterol (TC) exceeds 240mg/dL.
When this happens, cholesterol plaques may build up in the arteries (atherosclerosis), partially or totally obstructing blood flow to vital organs. Ischemic stroke or heart attack might result from blood clots or small portions of the plaques breaking off.
High cholesterol is normally associated with age, high blood pressure, overweight, family history, diabetes, alongside sedentary or irregular lifestyle and chronic stress. Most common symptoms include fatigue, weakness, insomnia, forgetfulness, chest discomfort and fast heart rate. Regular medical check-ups are important in detecting the condition as hypercholesteremia can be asymptomatic and people with slightly high blood cholesterol levels might not experience any symptoms.
Western Medical View
In the Western medicine view, there are two main causes for high cholesterol: primary or genetic and secondary. While the former is linked to an overproduction of LDL cholesterol by the liver or defective functioning at the cell level, the latter is mainly linked to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle and, as such, has a greater potential to be treated or even reversed.
The standard approach to treating or managing both primary-type and secondary-type cholesterol will usually involve lifestyle changes, consisting of a combination of a low-fat diet (which is not particularly well-evidenced to be effective) and regular exercise, alongside drug therapy, consisting of cholesterol-lowering medications or cholesterol-absorbing inhibitors.
Chinese Medical View
In the Chinese Medicine view, there is no clear definition of cholesterol. The condition is usually associated with a combination of underlying imbalances primarily impacting the Spleen ZF and Liver ZF organs and requiring an individualised approach. Disruptions to the functions of these organ systems due to poor lifestyles and diets are thought to affect the accumulation of cholesterol in the body.
Most commonly, Chinese Medicine physicians will diagnose what is referred to as ‘Spleen ZF Deficiency’, ‘Phlegm and Dampness’ and ‘Qi Stagnation’.
According to Chinese Medicine, the Spleen ZF organ oversees the intake, processing, transformation and distribution of nutrients and fluids derived from food.
Irregular eating habits, over-consumption of greasy food or cold drinks, irregular meals, late-night suppers, are thought to gradually weaken the Spleen ZF function, making it less efficient and resulting in an accumulation of ‘Dampness’.
Additionally, the fast-paced and increasingly sedentary lifestyle of modern days leaves room and time for little to no physical activity. This affects Qi and blood circulation, resulting in ‘Qi Stagnation’ and further ‘Phlegm and Dampness’ accumulation in the body.
Chinese Medicine’s approach to treating high cholesterol is a comprehensive and highly personalised one. Individualised herbal formulas, whose cholesterol-lowering properties are now being validated by research, are usually prescribed, alongside tailored Acupuncture treatments.
The therapeutic aim is to address the underlying imbalance, targeting the impacted organ systems to either tonify the Spleen ZF, Kidney ZF or Liver ZF, to reduce ‘Dampness’, unblock ‘Stagnation’ and increase blood circulation. This is achieved while also lowering stress and strengthening the patient’s mental health to support the necessary changes in lifestyle and diet habits.
When it comes to high cholesterol, both Western and Eastern care agree that lifestyle changes are mandatory to possibly reverse the condition and avoid more serious disorders.
Here are some tips and strategies that you can implement straight away to improve your overall health and enhance the benefits and efficacy of your treatments:
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Get your cholesterol levels checked regularly by your GP.
- Reduce stress and fatigue.
- Take time each day for rest and relaxation.
- Find a way that works for you to keep stress levels down. Practise meditation, Tai Qi, yoga or relaxation techniques. These are excellent ways of restoring energy and promoting relaxation.
- Eat a varied and whole food diet with plenty of fruit, vegetable and good quality fats.
- Take enough time to eat more slowly and mindfully: remove any distractions like your phone, TV or any electronic devices and enjoy, savour and focus on the food.
- Drink 2 litres of water every day.
- Try to add cholesterol-lowering food to your daily diet, such as
Beans, like lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans – high in soluble fibre..
- Apple or Citrus fruits like orange, grapes and berries – rich in pectin that keeps your circulatory system clear of LDL.
- Fatty fish, like salmon – containing omega 3 fatty acids that lower the
amount of LDL in the blood.
For more personalised advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our fully qualified CMIR-registered physicians with extensive Western medical training.
+ *Clinical Trials
Jin H, Li XS, Wang Q, Zhang HX. The effect of acupuncture on hyperlipidemia and its influence on blood lipids [J/OL]. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion: 1 – 6. issn.1005-0957.2020.13.1080.
Xue F. Efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine for tonifying the spleen and transforming dampness in the treatment of hyperlipidemia and its effect on blood lipid levels [J]. Guide of China Medicine, 2018,16(17):181.
Li, Yiping et al. “Traditional Chinese medicine for lipid metabolism disorders.” American journal of translational research vol. 9,5 2038-2049. 15 May. 2017