Cholesterol Treatment

  • Treatment

    A high level of blood cholesterol causes your arteries to narrow (atherosclerosis), and can slow, or even block, blood flow to your heart. This reduced blood supply prevents your heart from receiving enough oxygen, which could lead to a heart attack.

    Make changes in your life to reduce your risk factors. Switch to a low fat diet, and start an exercise program, even if your doctor has given you a cholesterol-lowering drug. Because high cholesterol levels can increase your chance of getting heart disease, it is important that you cut out the risk factors you can control. Take charge of your health by eating sensibly; lower your saturated fat intake and exercise appropriately to lose excess weight. If you smoke, now is the time to stop. Discuss with your doctor suitable ways to eat right, and ask for advice on safe physical activity. You may need to be referred to a dietician, join a health facility, and/or attend a smoking cessation workshop. If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor if you should stop or reduce your intake.

    Be knowledgeable about your prescribed drug therapy. Be sure you understand exactly when and how to take prescribed medications. For instance, know if you should take a certain drug with food and whether specific foods or beverages should be avoided when taking certain drugs. Be aware of what other drugs (prescribed or over-the-counter) or foods can interact with your medication, and be sure to tell your physician if you are taking any other medications, vitamins, or nutritional supplements. You should always take your medicine as prescribed, and know what to do if you accidentally miss a dose. Tell your physician about any side effects you may be having (headaches, fever, muscle aches or cramps, fatigue, etc). Do not stop taking any prescription medication without first discussing it with your physician.

    Monitor your progress in lowering cholesterol Table 04. Be sure you understand what your cholesterol-lowering goals are. Ask your doctor to show you how to track your cholesterol levels to monitor your progress.

    Table 4.   Progress in Controlling Cholesterol

    Use this chart to track your cholesterol levels every time you are tested to monitor your progress in reaching your goals.
    Lipid My Goal(obtain from physician) First Test Date Test Date Test Date Test Date
    Total Blood cholesterol level ? ? ? ? ?
    HDL cholesterol level ? ? ? ? ?
    LDL cholesterol level ? ? ? ? ?
    Triglyceride level ? ? ? ? ?

    Chart adapted from the American Heart Association.

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    Taking fish oil may help you prevent coronary artery disease. Fish oils (omega 3 fatty acids) lower triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol levels. They are helpful if you have a very high triglyceride level, especially when used in addition to diet, exercise, and fibrate therapy. If you have high blood cholesterol levels, fish oil can actually raise levels of LDL cholesterol in a manner similar to that seen with fibrate therapy. The benefit of fish oils (omega 3 fatty acids) is likely due to its effects on preventing sudden death from coronary disease and is not directly related to its effects on blood lipids. Thus, increasing sources of omega 3 fatty acids in the diet (from fatty fish or vegetable sources such as canola, flaxseed oils) may be particularly useful for those at risk of coronary events.

    Garlic may have a minor effect in reducing high cholesterol. Although many studies have been done to determine the effect of garlic on total cholesterol levels, it has been found that the results are not consistent. While garlic does reduce total cholesterol levels, the effect is modest at best. Fresh garlic may have higher amounts of allicin, the active ingredient with lipid-reducing properties, than what is found in capsules or tablets.

    Some children may require a blood cholesterol check. Although most children do not require blood cholesterol checks, children with risk factors for high cholesterol should be tested at the age of two years or older. The risk factors include obesity in the child, family history of early heart disease, and at least one parent with a high total cholesterol level (240 mg/dL or greater).

    Children younger than two years of age require more fat than what is present in a low-fat diet. Because many low-fat diets do not contain enough fat to support proper growth and development in young children, it is critical to check with your doctor before starting your child on a low-fat diet.

    You can’t cure high cholesterol, but you can control it. Most patients who carefully take their prescribed medication and adhere to healthy lifestyle habits will achieve lowered LDL cholesterol levels. While there is no cure for high cholesterol, it is possible to control these levels if you adhere to a healthy diet, maintain a proper weight, and get appropriate physical exercise, along with prescribed drug therapy.

    Monitoring your lipid levels and liver function is essential. After you have reached your target LDL cholesterol level, you should be monitored every two to three months for a year. If you have responded favorably after one year of cholesterol-lowering therapy, you may require monitoring for lipid levels and toxicity every four to six months, though you may need more frequent follow-up if you have heart problems. Be sure to report any side effects to you doctor.

    Your doctor should adjust drug dosages to maximum effectiveness if you do not achieve your target LDL cholesterol levels. It is essential that LDL cholesterol reduction be maintained, especially if you suffer from heart disease.

    Your doctor may need to refer you to a specialist. Your primary care physician or cardiologist may refer you to a lipid specialist, especially when the goals to lower your LDL cholesterol are not being met. He or she may also refer you to a dietician for help in creating and maintaining a good cholesterol-lowering diet.

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