Should All Patients with High Cholesterol Be Treated with Medications?

January 12, 2022

High blood cholesterol levels can cause heart disease, stroke, and other blood vessel, or cardiovascular, disease. On the other hand, medications given to treat high cholesterol levels are not without their own risks.  Side effects of some popular cholesterol-lowering medications are muscle pain and damage, liver damage, high blood sugar, memory loss, and confusion.

A healthy total cholesterol level is less than 170 mg/dL. LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, should be under 110 mg/dL, and HDL, or “good” cholesterol should be at least 35 mg/dL.  Medications should be only be considered when LDL cholesterol is over 180 mg/dL. Patients with milder cholesterol elevations who smoke or who have a diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity, should have a discussion with their medical provider to weigh the risks and benefits of starting therapy.

Patients with slightly elevated cholesterol levels can lower them with lifestyle changes. Weight control is often a good place to start. A healthy weight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9mg/kg squared. To find your BMI, go to the National Institute of Health’s BMI calculator, and plug in your height and weight. If it is too high, see your physician for a sensible weight loss and physical activity plan. Physical activity will not only help with weight control, bult will help elevate your “good cholesterol” (HDL). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a hotline to help smokers. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Weight control, physical activity, and not smoking will help control blood pressure. Diabetic patients, of course, need to control blood sugar levels with diet, exercise, and medication if needed.

Did you know that QuickMD can help you manage your cholesterol via telemedicine? You can even order your own labs here, including a cholesterol panel. Our doctors can also prescribe you statins online—if needed.

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