If you have high cholesterol levels but are otherwise healthy, your doctor may recommend that you modify your diet to see if this can have a positive impact on your cholesterol level. You will probably be retested after a period of around 3 months. If your cholesterol level has dropped then you can probably remain in good health by watching what you eat. If there is no reduction in your cholesterol level, or if the reduction is too small, then you may be prescribed cholesterol lowering medication.
If you have a high cholesterol level and some sign of heart related problems, if you have some hereditary condition which tends to raise your cholesterol level, or if you have a history of heart disease in your family then you may well be prescribed special cholesterol reducing medication.
Even if you are prescribed medication to lower your cholesterol level you should still do everything you can to reduce other risk factors. For example, eat healthily, exercise more (always seek medical advice before increasing your exercise levels), lower your alcohol intake, lose weight if necessary and don't smoke. These actions, in addition to helping keep your cholesterol under control, will benefit your overall health level and increase your enjoyment of life
Different Types of Cholesterol Medication
There are a number of different drugs which are used to treat high cholesterol levels. The main ones are listed below:
Statins are the most commonly used drug for treating high cholesterol levels. They work by blocking an enzyme and reducing the rate at which the liver produces cholesterol. These can sometimes have side effects such as indigestion and muscle cramps or pains. You should not take statins if:
- You are allergic to statins or their ingredients
- You are pregnant or nursing
- You have been diagnosed with liver disease
- You consume alcohol to excess
- You have a history of myopathy
- You have a history of renal failure
Fibrates (fibric acid derivatives) work by reducing the production of triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). By increasing HDL levels, they also reduce LDL levels (bad cholesterol). If you are allergic to fibrates or have liver disease or kidney disease, you should not take these agents.
Large doses of the vitamin niacin can lower triglycerides. Additionally, niacin (nicotinic acid) can lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and increase HDL "good" cholesterol. Anyone who is allergic to nicotinic acid, or who has liver disease, active peptic ulcer, or arterial bleeding, should not use nicotinic acid agents.
Cholesterol lowering medication is not a substitute for a low fat diet and a healthy life style. Some people may experience unpleasant, or even dangerous, side effects whilst taking cholesterol reducing medication and you should always seek your doctor's advice immediately if this occurs.
Never exceed the stated dose and follow your physician's instructions to the letter. You may need to avoid certain beverages such as grapefruit juice - which can lower the effect of many cholesterol reducing medications. Your alcohol intake will probably require to be carefully monitored.
Treatment based on cholesterol reduction drugs is usually long term. Once you have reached a healthy cholesterol level you will need to continue with your treatment in order to maintain this.