Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by your liver to help make hormones and digest fatty foods. When it builds up in your arteries, it can block or narrow them, which inhibits blood flow that could result in a heart attack or stroke.
Causes of High Cholesterol
In most cases, high cholesterol is a result of an unhealthy lifestyle or an accumulation of negative behaviors like smoking and eating a high-fat diet. It can also be hereditary, so it’s important to know your family history to rule out familial hypercholesterolemia – a gene that causes too much cholesterol. Those at higher risk include:
- Hispanic Men (13.1% have high cholesterol)
- Asian Men (11.3% have high cholesterol)
- Caucasian Women (14.8% have high cholesterol)
- Black Women
- Asian Women
Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol
The best way to prevent high cholesterol is to lead an active lifestyle and eat a healthy, high-protein and low-fat diet. Keeping a healthy weight and not smoking will also help improve your numbers.
However, a common treatment for high cholesterol is the use of statins. Statins are common drugs used to help lower “bad” cholesterol in your body. They work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. While everyone needs cholesterol to function normally, having too much can put you at greater risk for heart attack and stroke. About half of the U.S. population that could be helped by statins to reduce cholesterol are currently taking them.
Should I be on a Statin?
Whether you need to be on a statin depends on your cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart, or cardiovascular, disease. If your physician determines your heart risk is very low, you probably won’t need to take statins. But if you are unable to keep your cholesterol within normal ranges through a healthy lifestyle, then statins may help.
Though still considered a “cholesterol-lowering” drug, statins are also seen as a “risk-reducing” drug for those with lower levels of cholesterol who want to reduce their risk of heart attack.
Side Effects of Statins
- Muscle Pain
- Liver Damage
- Increased Blood Sugar
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Abdominal Pain
- Nausea or Vomiting
Not everyone experiences side effects with Statins, and there are ways to ease some of them. Talk to your doctor about monitoring your cholesterol and the best way to lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.