After Sinead Walsh's parents were diagnosed with high cholesterol, the community nurse knew it was time to get hers checked. Aged just 34, she was surprised at her blood results.
Sinead Walsh started lockdown like the rest of us: she got her 10,000 steps in every day, slipped into a healthy eating routine and explored her neighbourhood by walking.
And like the rest of us, Sinead's enthusiasm for this newfound working out soon faded. As she realised lockdown wasn't only lasting the two weeks as was originally planned, glasses of wine and takeaways soon replaced the Fitbit.
As a busy community nurse, based in Dublin, Sinead never stopped working throughout the pandemic.
"I was coming off the back of a hen do and a wedding in February, and I was exercising a bit more when we were originally locked down but with working full-time I slipped back to my old ways," says Sinead. "I didn't do anything a whole lot different lifestyle-wise, I was just being myself."
One change Sinead did make was to add a supplement to her breakfast every morning, something she has been doing daily since January.
Sinead adds her Cholestero-Low supplement to her breakfast every morning. Photo: Alexander Mils, Unsplash
"When I'm working I have a morning routine of fruit, granola and yoghurt for breakfast. Now I add a Cholestero-Low supplement every morning, just a sprinkle of the sachet and mix it all up and I'm away," says Sinead.
The reason for the addition of the supplement is because Sinead got her bloods checked last January, and was told to "keep an eye" on her cholesterol, which was at 5.4mmol/litres.
"Both my mother and father have high cholesterol so it was always something I was aware of. They've never had any major scares, but my dad's on double the dose of medication he was on two years ago so it's not coming down.
"I got my results last October and I did the usual things, I tried to lose weight and tried to exercise. Then it ran into Christmas and if anything, I found that I'd put on more weight! I don't regularly check my cholesterol but I get full bloods once a year."
Sinead came across an online advertisement for Cholestero-Low – a 100% natural supplement produced by iVitamins, an Irish company launched by GP Dr Clióna Murphy.
Heart health supplement Cholestero-Low comes in two flavours: strawberry and lemon. Photo: Cholestero-Low
After five months of including the strawberry flavour of the supplement on breakfast almost daily, Sinead's cholesterol has reduced from 5.4mmol/litres to 4.2mmol/litres.
"I got full bloods done again in May when the clinics reopened and it was down. I haven't incorporated any other major changes to my lifestyle so I'm putting it down to the supplement," says Sinead.
"I also have way more energy and feel better in myself since taking it. I haven't been diagnosed with any gut issues but I definitely feel my digestive system is working better the last few months. It's a lifestyle supplement, not just for your heart health."
Dr Murphy took an interest in cardiovascular health when her patients presented with symptoms of high cholesterol but found that the vitamins and supplements they were taking weren't making any huge strides. She researched the topic for her dissertation for her Masters in Public Health and made it her mission to educate us on what is actually in our vitamins and supplements by launching iVitamins.
Dr Clióna Murphy, founder of iVitamins and Cholestero-Low. Photo: Supplied
"I wanted to develop supplements that have a purpose, that had a quantifiable effect in the body that would provide longstanding health benefits," says Dr Murphy.
"We are conditioned to believe that the sole purpose of medicine is to treat symptoms with medication. Don’t get me wrong, certain ailments need certain medications or devices. But there is a huge amount of research in existence that describes how we can prevent, or alleviate and sometimes reverse, certain illnesses with diet and lifestyle.
"High cholesterol, or excessive cholesterol in the blood, over a prolonged period of time, can build up fatty deposits in the blood vessels. When these deposits grow, they become an issue and can impact the heart and the brain."
The main ingredient in Cholestero-Low is oat beta-glucan, which is approved by the European Food Safety Authority as a cholesterol-lowering supplement. It's a soluble fibre that can reduce your total cholesterol and your bad cholesterol.
The supplement comes in two flavours, strawberry and lemon. It's natural, prescription-free and can lower cholesterol levels by up to 20% says Dr Murphy.
It will also help improve heart health, reduce blood pressure, increase energy levels, improve gut health and fight the signs of ageing.
Here's the science bit...
Oat beta-glucan: Beta-glucan is a type of dietary fibre found in oats and has been recognised as having blood cholesterol-lowering properties.
Inulin: A prebiotic which feeds the good bacteria in your gut and is also proven to lower cholesterol. Inulin creates a feeling of fullness, potentially leading to weight loss.
Coenzyme Q10: An antioxidant that the body produces naturally which our cells use for growth and maintenance. Coenzyme Q10 levels decrease as we age and in those who have heart disease.
Dr Murphy's main aim is to provide an affordable supplement that gives the patient results.
"When you go into a pharmacy there are loads of vitamins and supplements that are quite expensive and promise very vague things. Cholestero-Low is 100% natural, contains ingredients that are proven to lower cholesterol and can be bought over-the-counter."
Cholestero-Low can be added to your breakfast, like Sinead, or added to a smoothie or a drink. It can be taken any time of the day, however it is recommended that you take the supplement daily to see best results.
For more information on Cholestero-Low, see cholesterolow.com.
Main photo: Dan Counsell, Unsplash