High cholesterol and heart disease are closely linked.

When this combines with obesity and diabetes, the risk of getting strokes or heart attacks is greatly increased.

Recent guidelines for doctors suggest anyone with high cholesterol and related heart disease should be given cholesterol lowering medication along with advice on a low-fat diet.

A group of drugs called the statins are the recommended medication. These are effective in lowering cholesterol but, like most chemical drugs, can cause side effects.

While those with a family history of high cholesterol and young people with the condition should be treated with medication, in my opinion, it pays to take a more holistic approach.

Stress and anxiety, for example, is a more common cause of cholesterol and heart disease. Smoking, high alcohol intake and unwholesome lifestyle and poor sleep pattern are other causes.

It is interesting to note many patients who suffer from heart attacks are not fat and many overweight people do not have high cholesterol.

There is a saying in Ayurveda that worry and anxiety lead you to the funeral pyre.

So, if people were to learn simple techniques in their lives to keep their anxiety and stress levels within healthy levels, they may not get raised cholesterol or heart disease.

I believe doing regular exercise, eating lots of fruit and vegetables and reducing the demands in our lives are the key to low cholesterol.

Just imagine how much it would reduce the national drug budget.

Ayurvedic medical research has shown the gum resin called Guggul, obtained from the tree Camiphora wightii, is a natural preparation which helps to lower cholesterol, reduce fat in the body, strengthens and works as an anti-inflammatory in arthritis.

This therapeutic property is said to be due to guggul lipids in the resin.

Ayurveda, however, recommends a combination of selected herbs to maintain balance with a more holistic effect.

For example, guggul is combined with trifala-Indian gooseberry for its rich source of vitamin C as anti-oxidant and two other myrobalan fruits.

Two other herbal extracts found to be protective for the heart are from the bark of the tree Terminalia Arjuna and the leaves of Brahmi Bacopa Monnieri which also helps to improve memory by improving circulation in the brain.

No side effects have been observed.

The ancient Ayurvedic physician Charak, writing his medical book in about 1000BC, described the relation between fat and obstruction of arteries with plaques, just as modern medicine has described today.

However, they recommend yoga and meditation along with a healthy vegetarian diet with occasional fasting on fluids only, in order to cleanse the body, tone the organs, relax the mind and nourish the spirit.