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So, it’s happened. Your doctor gave you a prescription for medicines to lower your cholesterol or triglyceride levels. If you’ve been trying hard to keep your levels down with a healthy diet and exercise, you might feel discouraged.

Take heart; needing medicine doesn’t mean you’ve failed. But, you do have a key role in helping the medicines do their job.

Ask Questions at the Doctor’s Office

When it comes to your health, there’s no such thing as a silly or unimportant question. Ask these questions any time you start a new medicine:

  • Why do you need it and what does it do?
  • When should you take it?
  • Are there foods you shouldn’t eat?
  • How will you know it’s working?
  • What side effects can you expect?

Talk with your doctor about what numbers are the healthiest. And, ask what you can reasonably expect your medicines to do. Talk about how your lifestyle changes can contribute, and how long it might take to see results.

Be Alert at the Pharmacy

  • Use the same pharmacy for all prescriptions. Even try to see the same pharmacist if you can. Both of these actions help ensure you don’t take two or more medicines that can have dangerous interactions.   
  • Review all the medicines you’re taking with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you still need them.  Put everything you take in a bag -- not just prescriptions, but non-prescription remedies like cold medicine, aspirin, vitamins, and supplements.

At Home: Take Meds, Exercise, and Repeat

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed . You’re more likely to remember them if you take them at the same time every day. Your doctor may tell you a specific time, or you may be able to choose. A wristwatch or cell phone alarm can remind you when it’s time to take a pill, or you can ask a family member to help.  
  • Stick with healthy habits. Taking medicine to lower cholesterol or triglycerides isn’t a license to eat doughnuts and lie on the couch. Meds are most effective when you combine their efforts with a healthy lifestyle. So set reachable goals and keep increasing them. Feeling successful is one of the best incentives to commit to a healthy eating plan and exercise routine.  
  • Track your progress. Keep track of your commitment to take meds and continue other healthy habits to stay motivated. Check out Heart360, the American Heart Association’s cardiovascular wellness center. It lets you track and even share your results online with your doctor.  
  • Commit to staying on your treatment.Even if your cholesterol and triglyceride numbers improve, keep taking your medicine unless your doctor says otherwise. Maintaining your healthy numbers means not skipping doses, exercise, or healthy meals.
  • Keep your doctor in the loop. That’s what follow-up appointments are for. Use that time to talk about side effects you’re noticing and how bothersome they are. If anything comes up before that appointment that makes it difficult for you to continue the medicine, don’t wait -- call your doctor.