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Cholesterol Treatments

January 19, 2016  |  Difficulty: Easy

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The excess buildup of cholesterol in the blood refers to hypercholesterolemia, which simply means "high cholesterol". It is one of the risk factors for heart disease. Atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and angina pectoris are a few potential results to point out. Cholesterol itself is vital for normal human body functionality, but a high amount of cholesterol becomes dangerous. Both diet and medication can help control high cholesterol levels.

Healthy Lifestyle

If you've been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you'll be advised to make some healthy lifestyle changes. First of all, focus on your diet and increase your physical activity. Your diet should be balanced, low in saturated fat, and you should cut down on alcohol.

Also there's growing evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet may be better than a low-fat diet for improving the cholesterol levels. A well-designed, low-carb meal plan should be moderate in protein and high in fat. When you consume a very low-carb diet your body preferentially burns saturated fat. However, it is recommended to choose healthier fats, eliminate trans fats, and eat more fiber. For example, nuts are high in fiber and protein, and many are low in carbohydrates. You can also add seeds and non-starchy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, and celery).

If obese, try to lose some extra pounds. The excess weight presents a huge ballast for your heart and that contributes to high cholesterol levels. Losing as little as five to 10 pounds can help lower the total cholesterol level. If you are a smoker, quit as soon as possible. When you stop smoking, your good cholesterol is likely to improve by as much as 10%.

Medication Treatment

If your cholesterol levels remain high, even after following the recommendations stated above, your doctor may prescribe medication.

The medication treatment options are:  

Statins – These block the enzyme in the liver that helps make cholesterol. This reduces the blood cholesterol level. Note that the cholesterol levels start to rise again once you stop taking statins.

Bile-acid-binding resins

Cholesterol absorption inhibitors

Aspirin – A low-dose aspirin can help prevent blood clots from forming, particularly for someone who's had a heart attack, has established vascular disease, or has a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Ezetimibe  - Blocks the absorption into your blood of cholesterol from food and bile juices in your intestines. It's generally not as effective as statins, but it is less likely to cause side effects.

If you also have high triglycerides, your doctor may prescribe fibrates, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

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