High Cholesterol Treatment -- What Works?
Safe, effective treatment for high cholesterol isn't hard -- but it can be confusing. Get the facts.
Eating Right as a High Cholesterol Treatment continued...
- Calories. According to Wong, the importance of counting your
calories is often overlooked by people with high cholesterol. No matter how
much or how little fat or cholesterol is in a food, its calories still add up.
Eating too much of it can lead to weight gain, and that increases your risk of
- High cholesterol foods. Experts have long urged people with high
cholesterol to shun foods loaded with cholesterol, like egg yolks, shrimp, and
organ meats. While some recent evidence suggests eggs may not be quite as
harmful as once thought, experts still generally recommend you limit all high
cholesterol foods. Also, don't assume that a food labeled
"cholesterol-free" is necessarily good for you.
So what sort of diet works as a high cholesterol treatment? Ask your doctor
for specific recommendations. Some experts recommend a Mediterranean-style
diet, which cuts down on saturated and trans fats, while boosting intake of
healthy unsaturated fats from fish and nuts.
If an improved diet doesn't help your cholesterol, don't feel like a
failure. Because of their genes, some people just don't respond as well to this
Weight Loss & Exercise as a High Cholesterol Treatment
Being overweight or obese ups your odds of having high LDL (bad cholesterol)
and triglyceride levels and low HDL (good cholesterol) levels. It can also lead
to other serious risks like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
So it's crucial to keep a healthy weight.
As a high cholesterol treatment, physical activity can have a modest effect.
Exercise can lower your triglycerides (and bad LDL cholesterol to a lesser
extent) and boost your good HDL cholesterol. So you should aim to get some
physical activity -- even just a brisk walk -- for 30-60 minutes most days of
But there are limits to what exercise can do. "For most people, exercise
by itself wouldn't be an effective therapy to lower cholesterol," says
Laurence S. Sperling, MD, director of preventive cardiology at the Emory
University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga. But it can keep your weight down
and reduce other cardiovascular risks.
Medications as High Cholesterol Treatments
If lifestyle changes haven't been enough as a high cholesterol treatment --
or if you're at high risk of cardiovascular problems -- your doctor will likely
turn to medications. In most cases, the first drug you will try is a
Statins like Crestor, Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol, and Zocor work by
blocking the effects of an enzyme that helps make cholesterol. They can lower
bad LDL cholesterol by an impressive 20-55%. They have a modest effect on
triglycerides and give a mild boost to your good cholesterol, too.
But don't assume that taking a statin makes you invulnerable. They won't
cancel out a diet of french fries and fondue. "Statins are a complement to
dietary changes," says Hutter, "not a replacement for them."