Treatment

There are two key ways to treat high cholesterol: taking medicine and adopting a healthier lifestyle. Eating right and getting exercise is always a good idea. Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may also recommend cholesterol-lowering drugs.

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The goal in treating cholesterol is to lower your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. The goal is not to lower your cholesterol numbers alone.

The following guidelines are from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

The two types of treatment are:

  • Lifestyle changes.
  • Medicines called statins.

The way you choose to lower your risk will depend on how high your risk for heart attack and stroke is. It will also depend on how you feel about taking medicines. Your doctor can help you know your risk. Your doctor can help you balance the benefits and risks of your treatment options.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes are always important, even if you take medicines to lower your risk.

Your doctor may suggest that you make one or more of the following changes:

  • Eat heart-healthy foods.
  • Lose weight if you need to, and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Be active on most, if not all days of the week.
  • Don't smoke.

Statins

You and your doctor can work together to understand what your risks are and what treatment is best for you. Your doctor may recommend that you take statins if the benefits outweigh the risks.

Statins are strongly recommended for these people and your doctor is likely to strongly recommend statins if you:

  • Have heart disease.
  • Have peripheral arterial disease.
  • Had a heart attack.
  • Had a stroke.

Statins are recommended for these people and your doctor is likely to recommend statins if:

  • Your LDL cholesterol is 190 mg/dL or above.
  • You have diabetes and you are ages 40 to 75.
  • Your 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke is 7.5% or above and you are ages 40 to 75.

For some people, it's not as clear if they need to take a statin. You and your doctor will need to look at your overall health and any other risks you have for heart attack and stroke.

When deciding about medicines, you and your doctor may think about:

  • Your family history of early heart disease. Early heart disease means you have a male family member who was diagnosed before age 55 or a female family member who was diagnosed before age 65.
  • A high LDL cholesterol test result (160 mg/dL or higher).
  • Results of tests such as C-reactive protein, coronary calcium scan, or ankle-brachial index.
  • Your lifetime risk of heart attack and stroke.

Other medicines

Your doctor may also talk to you about cholesterol absorption inhibitors or PCSK9-inhibitors. These medicines can also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke for some people.

Other medicines can improve cholesterol levels, but they have not been proven to lower the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Your doctor may recommend these medicines if there is a reason you can't take a statin. These medicines include bile acid sequestrants, fibric acid derivatives, and nicotinic acid (niacin).

©2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

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Causes & Risk Factors

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Prevention

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Diagnosis

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Complications

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Treatment

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Management

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