Question: I have slightly elevated cholesterol, with an LDL of 140. What do you think about my taking garlic as a natural way of lowering my cholesterol?

Answer: Unfortunately, research so far has failed to support cholesterol-lowering claims of garlic, either raw or as a supplement. A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine compared 192 adults with LDL cholesterol levels of 130 to 190 and triglycerides of less than 250 in four groups: placebo (dummy pill), raw garlic, or one of two supplements (powdered or aged garlic extract). Each group received the preparations six days a week for six months. At the end of the study period, none of the three forms of garlic showed any significant reduction in LDL ("bad") cholesterol, triglycerides or total cholesterol - or an increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol.

But that's not necessarily the end of the story on garlic. Compounds within garlic are known to have antioxidant and anticlotting properties. These might have a positive effect on reducing cardiovascular disease - even in the absence of any cholesterol-lowering effects.

If you're looking to lower your cholesterol naturally, the first step is to limit fat intake. Also: Oatmeal and other soluble fiber foods will modestly lower cholesterol. So will red yeast rice. Benecol and Take Control margarine products have a plant-based cholesterol-lowering compound. And the B-vitamin niacin can raise HDL and lower total cholesterol - if you can tolerate its side effect of flushing. Cardio exercise won't directly lower your cholesterol, but it will help to boost HDL.

Q: Why do Advil or Tylenol at bedtime make me fall asleep faster and sleep better?

A: While Advil and Tylenol are neither sleeping pills nor tranquilizers, they do help many people sleep better. That's because many of us have aches and pains that annoy us at night - especially as we toss and turn in our sleep.

Rolling onto a bad hip or turning into a position that aggravates chronic lower back pain will cause brief awakenings in the night that you may not remember. Sometimes we know of the aches and pains caused by arthritis, sore muscles or a bad mattress. Many times we don't make the connection.

You may be one of those folks who sleep more comfortably because there's a reduction in pain. (If you aren't aware of muscle or joint pains during waking hours, you may want to evaluate your mattress.)

Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to: "Ask Dr. H.," Box 767787, Atlanta, Ga. 30076.