Lower Cholesterol to Reduce Heart Disease Risk
How Do I Find Out What My Cholesterol Numbers Are and What They Mean? continued...
Your numbers will help you and your doctor determine not only your risk for heart disease but also the best options for lowering it. For instance, an LDL level of 190 or above is considered very high, and your doctor will likely talk to you about taking medicine to lower it. And if your HDL level is 60 or above, excellent, your risk of heart disease is lowered. The goal is a lower LDL and a higher HDL to prevent and manage heart disease.
But remember, the cholesterol numbers are only one part of a larger equation. In addition to the numbers, the doctor will factor in your age, blood pressure, smoking history, and use of blood pressure medicines. All of these things plus whether you already have heart disease will give a picture of your chance of a major heart problem over the next 10 years. With that picture you and your doctor will develop a strategy to lower the risk. That strategy may involve lowering your cholesterol level with diet and possibly medicine.
What Affects Cholesterol Levels?
Lots of things can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:
- Diet. Reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol in your diet can help lower your blood cholesterol. Eating too much sugar and too many simple carbohydrates will also increase your cholesterol levels.
- Weight. Being overweight is in itself a risk factor for heart disease. It also can increase your cholesterol. Losing weight will help lower your LDL, total cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. At the same time it can help you raise your HDL.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days.
- Age and Gender. As you get older, your cholesterol rises. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol than men. After menopause, though, women's LDL levels tend to rise.
- Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
- Medical conditions. Sometimes a medical condition may cause higher cholesterol levels. Examples include hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), liver disease, and kidney disease.
- Medications. Some drugs, such as steroids and progestins, can increase the "bad" cholesterol and decrease the "good" cholesterol.
What Drugs Are Used to Treat High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol-lowering drugs include:
- Bile-acid resins
Cholesterol-lowering drugs are most effective when combined with a low-cholesterol diet and exercise program.
Statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver. They lower LDL and triglycerides and can slightly raise HDL. These drugs are the first line of treatment for most people with high cholesterol. They are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and for people with heart disease, statins reduce the risk of future heart attacks. Side effects can include intestinal problems, liver damage, and, in a few people, muscle tenderness or weakness. If your doctor prescribes statins, you should discuss the percentage by which you should lower your cholesterol. Generally, it will be between 30% and 50%.