Medications To Treat High Cholesterol
For most people who need medication to manage high cholesterol, doctors will prescribe statins. Statins, also known as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, are a class of drugs that prevent cholesterol from forming in the liver, where both LDL and HDL cholesterol are made. This lowers the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. They are most effective at lowering LDL cholesterol but can also lower triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.
If you have certain conditions, or if statins arent working to decrease your high cholesterol sufficiently, your doctor may prescribe one of these other cholesterol-lowering medications:
- PCSK9 Inhibitors A newer type of medicine, PCSK9 inhibitors bind to and inactivate a protein on certain liver cells, which then lowers LDL cholesterol. Administered by injection, they are often used in patients with high cholesterol that doesnt respond to statins or people with familial hypercholesterolemia.
- Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors The most commonly used nonstatin agent, according to the AHA, selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors prevent cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestine. This means less cholesterol is delivered to the liver and, ultimately, the blood.
- Bile Acid Sequestrants Also known as bile-acid-binding agents, these drugs work by removing bile acids from the liver. Since LDL cholesterol is needed to make bile acids, the body then breaks down more LDL cholesterol particles.
Myth: I Cant Do Anything To Change My Cholesterol Levels
Fact: You can do many things to improve your cholesterol levels and keep them in a healthy range!
- Get tested at least every 5 years .1,2 Learn more about cholesterol screenings.
- Make healthy food choices. Limit foods high in saturated fats. Choose foods naturally high in fiber and unsaturated fats. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
- Be active every day. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Learn more about physical activity basics and tips.
- Dont smoke or use tobacco products. Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Learn more about tobacco use and ways to quit at CDCs smoking and tobacco use website.
- Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol if any medicines are given to you to manage your cholesterol, take them as they are prescribed. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
- Know your family history. If your parents or other immediate family members have high cholesterol, you probably should be tested more often. You could have a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia .
Common Causes Of High Cholesterol And What To Do About Them
High cholesterol, a well-known health condition among Americans, is on the decline but remains a threat. The percentage of U.S. adults suffering from high cholesterol dropped by an impressive 6% between 2000 and 2016, from 18.3% down to just 12%. This is a step in a positive direction, but higher-than-recommended cholesterol is still a serious condition and prevention depends on a thorough understanding of its causes. High cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease and remains the leading cause of death in the United States.
High cholesterol is largely governed by lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and smoking and that means its both treatable and preventable. The following list will explore the five most common causes of high cholesterol and the best ways to achieve healthy levels.
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What Causes High Cholesterol
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Cholesterol is both good and bad. At normal levels, it is an essential substance for the body. However, if concentrations in the blood get too high, it becomes a silent danger that puts people at risk of heart attack.
Cholesterol is present in every cell of the body and has important natural functions when it comes to digesting foods, producing hormones, and generating vitamin D. The body produces it, but people also consume it in food. It is waxy and fat-like in appearance.
There are two types of cholesterol:
- low-density lipoproteins , or bad cholesterol
- high-density lipoproteins , or good cholesterol
In this article, we will explain the role of cholesterol. We will also discuss the causes of high cholesterol, and its symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
Make The Changes Worth Making
If you have high blood cholesterol, making lifestyle changes is a great first step to lower your risk of heart disease. If those steps dont reduce your risk enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to help.
Remember: Making even modest changes now can help to prevent significant medical issues later. Do all you can to reduce your risk for the serious effects of heart attack and stroke.
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Dangers Of High Cholesterol
Having high LDL cholesterol increases the risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease refers to a range of conditions that can affect the heart, many of which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Also known as hypercholesterolemia, high LDL increases fatty deposits within the arteries, thereby also increasing the risk of blockages. When cholesterol builds up on the artery walls, it forms whats known as cholesterol plaque. This plaque can restrict blood flow, also increasing the risk for blood clots. Should a blood clot block the artery in the heart or brain, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The good news is that high cholesterol can be treated with medication and managed through lifestyle modifications. First, however, you must know where you stand. Here is a general scale of LDL cholesterol numbers and what they mean.
- Less than 100: optimal
- 160-189: high
- 190 or higher: very high
Keep in mind that in addition to having high LDL, having low HDL can also put you at risk for heart disease. Thus, this too should be measured, with an ideal score of 60 or more. If HDL is less than 40, it could be considered a risk factor.
The American Heart Association advises every adult over the age of 20 to have their cholesterol tested every four to six years, but these figures will vary based on the factors outlined above and on previous clinical indications.
What Is The Difference Between Good Cholesterol And Bad Cholesterol
Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein . It removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein is the bad cholesterol.
If your total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL level, you may be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. But, if your total cholesterol level is high only because of a high HDL level, youre probably not at higher risk.
Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. When you eat more calories than your body can use, it turns the extra calories into triglycerides.
Changing your lifestyle can improve your cholesterol levels, lower LDL and triglycerides, and raise HDL.
Your ideal cholesterol level will depend on your risk for heart disease.
- Total cholesterol level less than 200 is best, but it depends on your HDL and LDL levels.
- LDL cholesterol levels less than 130 is best, but this depends on your risk for heart disease.
- HDL cholesterol levels 60 or higher reduces your risk for heart disease.
- Triglycerides less than 150 milligrams per deciliter is best.
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Can High Cholesterol Cause Headaches And Dizziness
Say you have plaque buildup or cholesterol in your carotid arteries and not enough blood flow, or if you have narrowing of certain heart valves, or if you have arrhythmias, Dr. Laffin says, thesecan lead to what some people would call dizziness, but is probably more appropriately termed lightheadedness.
What Should My Cholesterol Levels Be
Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.
As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:
- 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
As a general guide, LDL levels should be:
- 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk
An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L. A lower level of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.
Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated. This is your total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. Generally, this ratio should be below four, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is only one risk factor. The level at which specific treatment is required will depend on whether other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are also present.
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Checking Your Blood Cholesterol Level
A cholesterol screening is an overall look at the fats in your blood. Screenings help identify your risk for heart disease. It is important to have what is called a full lipid profile to show the actual levels of each type of fat in your blood: LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and others. Talk with your healthcare provider about when to have this test.
How Is Cholesterol Measured
Most people with high cholesterol feel perfectly well and often have no symptoms.
Visit your GP to find out your cholesterol level and to find out what you need to do if your levels of bad cholesterol are high.
For people aged 45 years and over, you can have your cholesterol checked as part of a Heart Health Check with your GP.
If you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, you should have your cholesterol checked from age 18 years.
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What Are Hdl Ldl And Vldl
HDL, LDL, and VLDL are lipoproteins. They are a combination of fat and protein. The lipids need to be attached to the proteins so they can move through the blood. Different types of lipoproteins have different purposes:
- HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It is sometimes called “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.
- LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. It is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol because a high LDL level leads to the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
- VLDL stands for very low-density lipoprotein. Some people also call VLDL a “bad” cholesterol because it too contributes to the buildup of plaque in your arteries. But VLDL and LDL are different VLDL mainly carries triglycerides and LDL mainly carries cholesterol.
Triglycerides In Your Blood
In addition to cholesterol, your blood also contains a type of fat called triglycerides, which are stored in your bodys fat deposits. Hormones release triglycerides to make energy between meals.
When you eat, your body converts any extra energy it doesnt need right away into triglycerides.Like cholesterol, your body needs triglycerides to work properly. However, there is evidence to suggest that some people with high triglycerides are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
If you regularly eat more energy than you need, you may have high triglycerides.
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Who Should Be Tested
Your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini-stroke , or peripheral arterial disease
- are over the age of 40 people over 40 should have their estimate of CVD risk reviewed regularly
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease for example, if your father or brother developed heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55, or if your mother or sister had these conditions before the age of 65
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia
- are overweight or obese
- have high blood pressure or diabetes
- have another medical condition, such as kidney disease, an underactive thyroid, or an inflamed pancreas these conditions can cause increased levels of cholesterol or triglycerides
Lowering Cholesterol Through Diet
To help you achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet.
For example, they may advise you to:
- limit your intake of foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats
- choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, and legumes
- eat a wide variety of high fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- opt for baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, and roasted foods instead of fried foods
- avoid fast food and sugary, pre-packaged options when possible
Foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, or trans fats include:
- red meat, organ meats, egg yolks, and high fat dairy products
- processed foods made with cocoa butter or palm oil
- deep-fried foods, such as potato chips, onion rings, and fried chicken
- certain baked goods, such as some cookies and muffins
Eating fish and other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower your LDL levels. For example, salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich sources of omega-3s. Walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseeds, and avocados also contain omega-3s.
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What Is Cholesterol And Is It Unhealthy
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your body and in animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy.
It plays important roles in the production of hormones, vitamin D, and the bile necessary for digesting fats. Its also an essential component of every cell in your body, giving cell membranes strength and flexibility .
Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs to function, but cholesterol can also be introduced by eating animal products.
Since cholesterol doesnt mix well with liquids such as blood, its transported by particles called lipoproteins, including low density and high density lipoprotein or LDL and HDL.
LDL is often referred to as bad cholesterol because its associated with plaque buildup in your arteries, while HDL helps excrete excess cholesterol from your body .
When you consume extra cholesterol, your body compensates by reducing the amount that it naturally makes. In contrast, when dietary cholesterol intake is low, your body increases cholesterol production to ensure that theres always enough of this vital substance .
Only about 25% of cholesterol in your system comes from dietary sources. Your liver produces the rest .
What Causes High Cholesterol Dairy Smoking Genetics And More
- High cholesterol is associated with a greater risk of heart disease and stroke, so it is important to understand the common causes behind this serious condition.
- Eating a lot of fried foods, fatty meats, and processed foods are among the main dietary culprits of high cholesterol.
- Exercising more regularly can directly benefit your cholesterol and lower the chance of obesity, which is also a factor in high cholesterol.
- This article was reviewed by Nicholas S. Amoroso, MD, Interventional Cardiologist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.
- This article is part of Insider’s guide to High Cholesterol.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cholesterol levels should be no higher than 200 mg/dL. Yet, an estimated 95 million US adults have levels higher than 200 mg/dL, and nearly one-third of them have extremely high cholesterol levels beyond 240 mg/dL.
And that’s not good. Because high cholesterol means that plaque is more prone to build up and stick to the artery walls within your heart. The higher your cholesterol levels, the more plaque that’s built up. This can narrow or block these essential blood pathways and helps explain why high cholesterol is associated with a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.
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Getting A Cholesterol Test
A blood sample is taken that will be used to determine the amount of bad cholesterol , good cholesterol and other fatty substances in your blood.
You may be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours before the cholesterol test, usually including when you’re asleep at night. This ensures that all food is completely digested and won’t affect the outcome of the test.
Your GP or practice nurse can carry out the cholesterol test and will take a blood sample, either using a needle and a syringe or by pricking your finger.
A newer type of test that measures non-high-density lipoprotein is now sometimes used because it’s thought to be a more accurate way of estimating cardiovascular disease risk than LDL.
Non-HDL cholesterol is total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol. It’s also not necessary to fast before the test, so it is more convenient.
What Can Happen If You Have Atherosclerosis
If your arteries become clogged up with blood fats your blood can’t flow around your body as easily. This can lead to a number of diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
These are known together as cardiovascular disease or CVD cardio refers to the heart, and vascular refers to the blood vessels.
Coronary heart disease
This is where the arteries have become clogged up and stiff. The blood cant flow around the body and back to the heart easily, and blood clots can form. This can lead to chest pain, heart failure, heart attacks and strokes. This is the most common type of heart disease.
This is a dull, heavy or tight pain in the chest which can spread to the left arm, neck, jaw or back. It happens when the arteries leading to the heart have become narrowed and the heart can’t get enough blood. The pain is caused by a lack of oxygen. It can be brought on by exercise or activity, as the heart needs more oxygen during physical activity.
This is a medical emergency. It happens when an artery leading to the heart becomes completely blocked, often by a blood clot, cutting off the blood supply. Part of the heart muscle quickly dies, but if its treated quickly, the blockage can be removed.If you think you or someone you are with is having a heart attack, call 999 straight away. The signs of a heart attack include:
- a crushing pain in the chest
- suddenly feeling very anxious.
Find out about coronavirus if you have heart disease
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