In the present day situation, the risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases is a worrying issue worldwide. Hence, it is understandable that medical studies and researches are being focused on the possible treatments for high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There are myriads of therapeutic formulations for lowering high cholesterol and hypertension, some of which may result in mild to severe adverse effects.

The challenge is to look out for treatment options that do not pose side effects and complications. A recently discovered milestone in medical science is the effectiveness of niacin for high cholesterol. Niacin (actually vitamin B3) is a water-soluble type of vitamin, which plays a primary role in various metabolic processes of the body system, including production of energy, red blood cells (RBCs), proteins, and hormones.

As we all are aware, there are two types of cholesterol in the body―low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). According to their role in cholesterol metabolism, LDL is known as bad cholesterol and HDL as good cholesterol. In an individual with a high cholesterol reading, it is imperative to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol and increase that of good cholesterol. Niacin or nicotinic acid is helpful for both the purposes.

Niacin taken alone or in conjunction with other cholesterol lowering drugs help in keeping the cholesterol under recommended levels. The doctor may prescribe any of the types of niacin, either immediate release or slow release formulations, to treat the symptoms of high cholesterol. As per a study conducted on patients with high cholesterol, it is observed that niacin is effective for elevating HDL cholesterol by about 15-35 percent, and reducing LDL cholesterol by about 10-20 percent.

Niacin is present abundantly in certain groups of plants and animals. Even though you can get niacin supplements in the market, it is best to rely on the natural sources of this water-soluble vitamin, which include vegetables, eggs, dairy products, fish, poultry, and lean meat. An important note for people who have underlying conditions like bleeding problems, serious liver disease, and stomach ulcers, is to seek medical advice before administering any supplement.

Now, you might be wondering about the dosage! The recommended dose depends upon the patient's current cholesterol levels, underlying medical problems, and other prescription medication. In general, the physician prescribes lower doses in the first stage of treatment, which eventually increases to approximately 1.5-3 grams daily. During the treatment period, the patient should be monitored closely for any abnormal side-effects like hot flashes and gastrointestinal symptoms.

In spite of the health benefits of niacin, it is to be borne in mind that excessive intake of this vitamin can lead to medical complications. Side effects and/or toxicity of niacin is rare amongst individuals who consume its natural sources for combating the risks of high cholesterol. In simple terms, niacin supplements should only be taken within the recommended dose as prescribed by the concerned physician.