Everyone has cholesterol, but we don’t always remember to check it or pay attention to it. That’s why National Cholesterol Education Month is so important!
National Cholesterol Month is promoted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and American College of Cardiology. Cardiologists, family practitioners, primary care providers, internists, and nurse practitioners can take time this September to inform patients about cholesterol, including what cholesterol is, when to get it checked, and how to treat it when it gets too high.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol tends to have a bad reputation, but it serves a vital purpose. Our bodies need cholesterol to make hormones and build our cells. The liver makes all the cholesterol we need for those purposes. The rest comes from the foods we eat.
Two primary sources of dietary cholesterol are meat and dairy products. Foods that are high in trans and saturated fats also contain dietary cholesterol. Problems arise when our bodies get too much cholesterol from these sources.
Because it’s part of our cells, cholesterol circulates in our blood. The more cholesterol in your blood, the more risks it poses to your overall health. For example, people with high cholesterol are at an increased risk of developing certain cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart disease. In addition, people with additional risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes, or high blood pressure, should be particularly aware of their cholesterol scores.
In the U.S., one in five adolescents and 93 million adults have high cholesterol. It’s never too early to start checking your cholesterol levels. People without risk factors for high cholesterol can get their levels checked every five years. Those with additional risk factors, including a family history of high cholesterol, should check their cholesterol levels more frequently.
The most common form of medication to manage high cholesterol is a drug known as statins. These drugs have been around since 1980 and work in the liver to keep cholesterol from forming.
The most common statins on the market include:
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor®)
- Fluvastatin (Lescol®)
- Simvastatin (Zocor®)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol®)
- Rosuvastatin Calcium (Crestor®)
- Lovastatin (Mevacor®, Altoprev™)
New Non-Statin Treatments
While many patients can use statins without side effects, others suffer from muscle pain.
One of the two recently FDA-approved drugs Nexletol and Nexlizet might be better options for these patients. These drugs are the first statin alternatives to be released since the FDA approved ezetimibe in 2002.
Nexletol and Nexlizet work by blocking dietary cholesterol sources. However, they are not always effective on their own. Therefore, most doctors recommend that their patients take one of these new drugs along with the highest dose of a statin the patient can manage.
In addition to medication, many doctors recommend lifestyle changes for their patients. Eating a balanced diet and getting the recommended amount of exercise can help a patient naturally lower their cholesterol levels. In addition, taking a proactive approach by getting cholesterol levels checked regularly can help patients keep their cholesterol at a manageable level.
Spread the Word about Cholesterol Education Month
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