If you have high cholesterol, then you know that you need to get it down to a lower level in order to reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other health problem. Sometimes this can be done with lifestyle changes, other times it may require medications.
The focus of nearly all high cholesterol treatments is to lower the amount of LDL, or bad, cholesterol that you have in your body. For some people, it may also include treatments to raise the amount of HDL, or good, cholesterol as well. Here is a look at the treatment process for high cholesterol problems.
The starting treatment
Before you start a cholesterol treatment, you need to know what your cholesterol levels are. This is found out through a simple blood test at your doctor’s office. The numbers will give your doctor an idea of how bad your cholesterol is and how aggressive your treatment needs to be.
Once you know your levels, one of the first things that your doctor will discuss with you is what you eat. Often, you will be asked to follow a lower-cholesterol diet that cuts back on bad fats and increases the amount of fresh foods and vegetables that you eat.
The next step of your treatment will often include a look at your activity level. Exercise can help improve your good cholesterol levels and help you lose weight. If you are not following a regular exercise routine already, your doctor may recommend some activities for you to try.
A few people may need to start on medication right away. This includes people who have a medical history that includes coronary artery disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, as these people are at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
If you are one of the many people who need to start medication, your doctor will usually start with a statin. These help slow down the amount of cholesterol that your body produces naturally, and can help reduce your risk of many of the complications associated with high cholesterol. Other times doctors choose to use other medications, either with or without a statin. These are often designed to prevent the amount of cholesterol that you absorb from food sources.
Continuing your treatment
Once you have started a cholesterol-lowering treatment, your doctor will usually want to check your cholesterol periodically to see what sort of progress you are making. If you are attempting to lower cholesterol through diet alone, this will tell you if you need to add in a medication as well. If you are already on a medication, it will let you and your doctor know whether or not the dosing and medication are appropriate.
These checkups are a good time for you to talk to your doctor about any concerns that you might have. For instance, if you have difficulty with the diet, it may be recommended that you see a dietitian. If you have side effects from the medication, your doctor may want to change it. If exercise is hard because of another health condition, he or she can recommend alternatives.