Your body needs cholesterol to work properly, but extra cholesterol in your blood causes deposits to build up on the inside walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called plaque. It narrows your arteries and can reduce or stop blood flow. This can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and narrowing of the arteries elsewhere in your body.
After being diagnosed with high cholesterol, some people only need to make lifestyle changes and do not require medication to control their cholesterol. Some people will need to start medication sooner. Medication is not a substitute for lifestyle changes but should rather be used in combination with them.
The following are lifestyle changes that can help get your hypercholesterolemia under control:
Cut down on smoking or, better yet, quit.
Physical exercise is recommended, at least 150 minutes a week.
Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. This is easier said than done but with determination it is possible. Speak to your care coach if you need assistance.
Reduce your intake of saturated fats.
Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars such as white sugar, jam and white bread.
Limiting alcohol is always going to be beneficial when tackling heart disease-related issues.
Make it a priority to monitor your cholesterol levels on a regular basis. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor or care coach.
There are times where lifestyle changes are not enough to lower cholesterol levels.
Your doctor will have to draw some blood to measure your blood cholesterol level and will need to consider different factors before prescribing medication.
Statins are a commonly used class of drug for people who need medication for their hypercholesterolemia. Statins reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and other related problems. They do this by lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Examples of statins are simvastatin, atorvastatin, fluvastatin and lovastatin. There are other drugs available to for the managment of high cholesterol, such as bile acid binding resins (like cholstyramine), cholesterol absorption inhibitors and injectable medications, which are less commonly used.
Most of the time you will need to take this medicine for the rest of your life. In some cases, changing your lifestyle and losing extra weight may allow you to stop taking this medicine. But you should not stop your medication unless it has been recommended by your doctor. Always take your medication as instructed, even if you aren’t feeling a difference.
Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window
Reference: Wallis EJ, Ramsay LE, Ul Haq I, et al. Coronary and cardiovascular risk estimation for primary prevention: validation of a new Sheffield table in the 1995 Scottish health survey population. BMJ 2000; 320:671.