Your doctor has most likely explained the importance of getting your cholesterol under control, since it is a major risk factor for heart disease. He or she may try several approaches to help lower your cholesterol and protect your health.
According to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, treatment for high cholesterol levels falls into two basic categories: Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) and cholesterol-lowering medications. The goal of treatment is to lower total and LDL cholesterol to reduce heart risk. Your doctor may first assess your personal risk factors for heart disease. It will be used to figure out what a healthy cholesterol target is for you. It will also be used to determine the best course of treatment for you, helping your doctor to decide whether to recommend TLC alone, or combine them with medication.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC)
TLC is a program for anyone who has a blood cholesterol level higher than their personal target for heart health. There are three basic components. These are:
- Healthy eating: To adhere to the TLC heart-healthy eating plan, you should consume no more than 25%-35% of calories from fats. Less than seven percent of that total should come from saturated fats, and less than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol daily. Total daily calorie consumption should be limited to levels appropriate to maintain a healthy body weight. Depending upon your progress, your doctor may also recommend an increase in soluble fiber and/or the addition of certain foods that can speed the cholesterol-lowering process.
- Weight management: If you are overweight, shedding pounds can help lower your cholesterol levels.
- Physical activity: The TLC treatment plan calls for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, since regular physical activity can aid in reducing high cholesterol.
Healthy lifestyle changes are generally the first line of treatment. For many people, that may be enough. However, if this course of treatment does not produce good results, medication may be the next step. Or your doctor may determine your cholesterol levels and other risk factors call for more aggressive treatment. If so, he/she may give you cholesterol-lowering medications immediately, along with guidance on lifestyle changes.
Medications for Treating High Blood Cholesterol Level
A variety of medications are used in the treatment of high cholesterol levels. The most common are:
- Statins: These are the most commonly-prescribed medications for lowering cholesterol. They block enzymes your liver needs to make cholesterol.
- Bile acid sequestrants: Your liver uses cholesterol to manufacture bile acids for digestion. Sequestrants bind to these cholesterol-rich bile acids, which are then eliminated in the stool, lowering LDL blood levels.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: These medications prevent the small intestine from being able to absorb dietary cholesterol.
It is important to keep in mind that treating high blood cholesterol levels is a team effort between doctor and patient. You should follow your doctor’s recommendations for healthy lifestyle changes. You should also take any prescribed medications exactly as instructed. Following your doctor’s guidance will help to lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease.