High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia, is an elevation in the blood concentration of cholesterol above its normal levels. Cholesterol is a type of fat the body needs for cell building, vitamin D production, and the synthesis of certain hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.
However, excessive elevation in cholesterol levels is associated with an increased risk of severe conditions like heart diseases, heart attacks, and strokes. So, how can high cholesterol be treated? Are there any tips to reduce its levels? Let’s explore the details below:
High cholesterol treatment
Elevated cholesterol levels require urgent medical attention to avoid complications and risks associated with this condition. The doctor usually recommends lifestyle modifications to reduce cholesterol levels. However, if these levels remain high, they may resort to medication. The following are treatment options in detail:
The doctor typically suggests the following lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol levels:
1- Dietary modifications
A healthy diet can help in treating cholesterol and maintaining heart health. Therefore, the doctor may suggest modifying your diet as follows:
- Reduce foods rich in saturated fats: Including red meat and full-fat dairy products, as saturated fats can increase your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, considered the “bad” cholesterol.
- Avoid foods high in trans fats: Trans fat can elevate overall cholesterol levels. So you should avoid foods high in trans fats, such as manufactured margarine and ready-made pastries. Additionally, trans fats may be listed as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils on food labels.
- Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids do not affect LDL cholesterol but are beneficial for maintaining heart health. These foods include salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
- Increase the intake of soluble fibers: Soluble fibers can also help reduce cholesterol absorption in the bloodstream. Foods rich in these fibers include apples, pears, and red beans.
2- Regular exercising
Physical activity helps raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, considered good cholesterol since it is crucial in removing bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. Moderate-intensity exercises for at least 150 minutes per week are recommended, including the following:
- Brisk walking.
The doctor may prescribe medications to lower cholesterol in addition to dietary changes and regular exercise.
The choice of the appropriate medication depends on various factors such as age, health condition, and the side effects of these medications. Some of the most common cholesterol-lowering medications include:
These medications reduce cholesterol production in the liver, which helps lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Examples include the following:
2- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
These drugs reduce cholesterol absorption from food in the small intestine. Ezetimibe is a commonly used drug in this class and is often prescribed alongside statins.
3- Bile acid sequestrants
These medications bind to bile acids in the stomach, preventing their absorption. This stimulates the liver to use cholesterol from the blood to produce new bile acids, thus lowering cholesterol levels. Examples of bile acid sequestrants include:
4- PCSK9 Inhibitors
These drugs target a protein in the liver called Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 or PCSK9, which increases the liver’s ability to remove harmful cholesterol from the blood. Alirocumab and Evolocumab are examples of PCSK9 inhibitors.
It should be noted that using PCSK9 inhibitors alone is insufficient to lower cholesterol levels. Therefore, the doctor will emphasize the importance of adhering to a healthy diet, regular exercise, and using these medications.
5- Bempedoic acid
This medication is considered one of the latest cholesterol-lowering drugs, and it helps inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver. As a result, it reduces cholesterol levels in the blood. The doctor usually prescribes this medication if your high cholesterol is genetically related or if you have a heart condition.
Certain dietary supplements and herbs can help reduce cholesterol levels, but consult your doctor before trying them to ensure they are suitable for your health condition and do not interact with any medications you are taking. Examples of these supplements and herbs include:
- Omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
- Niacin supplements, which is a type of vitamin B.
- Ground flaxseeds.
- Green tea.
Tips to Lower Cholesterol
Comply with your doctor’s advice and adhere to prescribed medications to address cholesterol issues and mitigate related risks. Additionally, consider the following tips to help lower cholesterol levels:
- Quit smoking: Smoking raises cholesterol levels and increases the risk of severe health conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight: losing weight can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by about 8% for every 4.5 kilograms lost.
- Manage stress: Chronic stress can increase bad cholesterol levels and decrease good cholesterol levels. Therefore, doctors may recommend relaxation techniques and yoga.
- Get enough sleep: Aim 7-9 hours per night, as sleep is essential for heart and vascular health.