High Cholesterol: Treatment

Many effective treatments are available for high cholesterol, including medication and lifestyle changes. Be sure to discuss with your doctor these options and any other medications, supplements and vitamins you may be taking.

Lifestyle
Making changes to the way you live can reduce high cholesterol. Better yet, it can prevent it! Here are some tips:

  1. Lose weight. If you are overweight, shed the extra pounds. Losing just five percent to 10% of your body weight can make a big difference. If you are more than 10 pounds overweight, you can generally reduce your LDL by 10 points if you lose 10 pounds.
  2. Eat smart. Increase your consumption of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and foods rich in essential fatty acids, such as cold-water fish.
  3. Get moving. Work out up to 30 to 60 minutes per day. You don't have to run a marathon. Walking is fine, but do so at a brisk pace. If you can't find a solid block of time, break it up. For example, walk the dog three times a day for 15 minutes each time.
  4. Don't smoke. If you do, quit!

Medications
Several types of medication treat high cholesterol. You and your doctor will decide what's best for you.

  1. Statins. These slow the production of cholesterol in the liver. They have been around for decades and are the most commonly prescribed medications for high cholesterol.
  2. Bile acid sequestrants. These help remove cholesterol from the bloodstream by eliminating bile acids.
  3. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors. These lower the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs. They may be used in combination with statins.
  4. Niacin or nicotinic acid. Niacin is a B vitamin that can raise HDL while lowering LDL, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Prescription niacin is believed to have fewer side effects than over-the-counter versions.
  5. Fibrates. Fibrates mainly lower triglycerides and, to a lesser extent, increase HDL.
  6. Omega-3 supplements. These are available as fish oil and in other over-the-counter supplements or prescription supplements. Since omega-3 supplements can interact with other medications, be sure to check with your doctor before you take them.

Most of these medications have few side effects. You may need regular blood tests to check liver function. You'll probably have your cholesterol checked more often at first to see how you are responding to the medication. Once you find a treatment that works for you, tests may become less frequent.

However you and your physician decide to manage your high cholesterol, never stop taking your medications as directed without first consulting your doctor.