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High Cholesterol: Do I Need Prescription Medication To Lower My Cholesterol?

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High cholesterol is one of the leading risk factors in heart disease, and yet, unless we are tested for it, you may not know that you have it. Being tested for high cholesterol can help you manage it before it can harm you.

Important Facts About Cholesterol:

Cholesterol is so important for your body that it actually produces it! It forms part of the very structure of your cells and is the foundation for many important hormones.

Cholesterol becomes a problem when there’s too much of its harmful form in your blood stream. High levels of “bad cholesterol” or LDL indicate that you may be developing athlerosclerosis (thickening of the blood vessel walls with fat), making it harder for blood to circulate. If your coronary arteries - the vessels that supply your heart with nutrients and oxygen - are damaged this way, it can lead to damage to the heart and eventual heart attack.

In contrast, high levels of HDL or “healthy” cholesterol indicate that your blood levels of fat and cholesterol are in good shape, and can help lower LDL levels.

What’s “high cholesterol?

Your healthcare provider can test your blood cholesterol levels. The NCEP (national cholesterol education program) provides these numbers as a guideline for what your cholesterol levels should be, depending on your risk factors for heart disease.

View the table of Cholesterol Risk Factors at Shoppe.MD Online Pharmacy

Risk factors for heart disease include smoking, having diabetes (type 1 or 2), and having high blood pressure. You should ask your health care provider about what your risk factors are. Make sure to mention any family history of heart disease or risk factors - while family doesn’t determine whether you are at risk for heart disease or not, it can play a contributing role to any risk you might have.

So Do I Have To Take Medication for High Cholesterol?

Sometimes high cholesterol can be managed by lifestyle changes alone. For example, your doctor may suggest a diet and exercise program for you if you have no other risk factors for heart disease and an LDL level up to 160 mg/dL. On the other hand, for people who have known coronary artery disease (thickening of the blood vessels to the heart which can lead to heart attacks), your physician may suggest medications even if your LDL level is 110 mg/dL.

Non-Medication Alternatives:

If you have high cholesterol that may be managed by lifestyle changes, your healthcare provider may suggest dietary changes including substituting lower fat alternatives for foods that are high in saturated fats, limiting cholesterol intake, and increasing the fiber in your diet. Recent studies suggest that limited trans-fatty acids (a fat with a special kind of structure) may also assist in meeting your cholesterol goals.

Increasing exercise levels can decrease the amount of fat storage you have as well as “burning” the fats that you take in with meals. Your healthcare worker can help you add exercise to your day-to-day life or to modify your existing exercise program to better meet your heart-health needs.

And lastly, quitting smoking will form a key component of helping your heart-health.

Cholesterol Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes. She is likely to do so if you have several risk for heart disease, if you’ve had angina (chest pain that can sometimes precede heart damage and a heart attack) or a heart attack, or if exercise and diet alone have not reduced your cholesterol levels sufficiently.

You might start with one drug or a group (two or more which work in synergy) to help lower your cholesterol. As your cholesterol levels change, you may be able to reduce the amount or number of drugs you are taking - but make sure that you speak with your healthcare worker before stopping your medications!

Like most medications, cholesterol-lowering medications have side effects, so if you have mild high cholesterol, starting exercise and diet changes right away to spare you future annoyance. In addition, before starting cholesterol medications, go through your other medications with your physician so she can check for drug interactions. If grapefruit is part of your daily diet, check with your physician to make sure that it won’t interfere with the medication you’re taking. Some cholesterol medications are going to be offered over-the-counter in the near future; before you start any of these medications, make talk with your pharmacist and healthcare worker to find out which if any of these medications are right for you.

Morgan, J., “Hypercholesterolemia. The NCEP Adult Treatment Panel III Guidelines,” Geriatrics, Volume 58, issue 8, p 33-38, 2003

Executive Summary of the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III), Clinical Guidelines/Evidence Reports, 2001

Ansell, B., “Reassessment of National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel-III guidelines: one year later,” American Journal of Cardiology,Volume 90, issue 5, p 524-525, 2002

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Ian Mason, owner of Shoppe.MD, your source for Online Prescription Medications, drug information and support forums.

Ian is a fat-to-fit student of health, weight loss, exercise, and several martial arts; maintaining several websites in an effort to help provide up-to-date and helpful information for other who share his interests in health of body and mind.

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