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5 Tips for Controlling Hard-to-Manage Cholesterol

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    Getting a Handle on High Cholesterol
    Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the blood, as well as in all of the cells of the body. It’s a necessary component for good health. Your body actually makes all the cholesterol it needs; cholesterol only becomes a problem when there’s too much of it in your blood as a result of poor diet or, sometimes, genetic factors. Some people have what’s called familial hypercholesterolemia, which can cause high cholesterol that’s difficult to control. When I have patients who are struggling to lower their very high cholesterol, I have some tips for them to keep in mind.

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    1. Remember that lifestyle changes may not show immediate results.
    Aggressive lifestyle changes are extremely important for lowering high cholesterol. By adjusting your diet and exercise routine, you can see big changes in your cholesterol levels. However, it’s not going to happen immediately. I make sure my patients know it often takes 3 to 6 months to notice the effects of lifestyle modifications. Stick with it and your work will pay off.

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    2. Always take your medication as your doctor prescribes it.
    For people with very high, hard-to-control cholesterol, medications are very important. If you experience side effects, it’s important you don’t immediately stop taking your medication. Instead, talk to your healthcare provider so he or she can address the side effects and try alternatives. If you’re on more than one medication, you won’t know exactly what’s causing the side effects, so don’t go off of them without consulting your doctor.

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    3. Trust that your doctor has weighed the benefits and risks of your medications.
    Lately, cholesterol medications have gotten some bad press. I’ve heard from a lot of patients who say they read or heard something, and now they think their cholesterol drugs are really dangerous. I try to make it clear to my patients that serious side effects are rare, and the benefits of the drugs far outnumber the risks. Lowering your cholesterol lowers your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other health problems. That benefit far outweighs the risk of experiencing rare side effects. If you do experience side effects you can’t tolerate, talk to your doctor about trying an alternative.

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    4. Keep in mind there are lots of treatment options available.
    Sometimes, patients experience side effects like muscle pain with the standard cholesterol treatment, statins. If you can’t tolerate statins, there are other things we can add, like a cholesterol absorption inhibitor. There’s also a new class of drugs out called PCSK9 inhibitors that I will prescribe in some cases, too. So don’t give up if one treatment doesn’t work for you—work with your doctor to find the one that does the trick.

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    5. Understand that treating high cholesterol is a lifelong process.
    Patients will ask me, “Am I going to be on this medication forever?” The answer is quite possibly, yes. High cholesterol treatment requires a commitment for the rest of your life, and it’s crucial you take your medications as prescribed and stick with your lifestyle changes. By lowering your cholesterol, you’ll decrease your risk of serious cardiovascular disease and live a healthier life all around.

5 Tips for Controlling Hard-to-Manage Cholesterol

About The Author

Dr. Bukola Olubi is a board-certified cardiologist with the Piedmont Heart Institute. She is a member of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
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THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.
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