Cholesterol: Treatment & Care

Doctors emphasize diet, exercise, and weight loss to reduce cholesterol. Medications are another important option to lower heart disease risk.

Cholesterol: Diagnosis & Tests

A cholesterol blood test is the first step in diagnosing high cholesterol. We’ll help you understand your test results.

Cholesterol: Symptoms & Types

Symptoms & Types

There are no symptoms of high cholesterol. But if you have high cholesterol and other disease risk factors, there can be serious health complications.

Complications
Cholesterol, Heart Disease, and Other Health Problems

There’s a link between high cholesterol and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other health problems. Here’s why it’s important that you lower your cholesterol.

Cholesterol

Do you have high cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia? Abnormal cholesterol levels such as high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol are a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. An unhealthy diet can cause high cholesterol. Sometimes high cholesterol runs in families. A low-cholesterol diet can help improve cholesterol levels. If the low-cholesterol diet does not work to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications.

High Cholesterol Treatment

Finding the Best High Cholesterol Treatment

There’s a lot of variability in how high cholesterol treatments work in a given person. Treatment that did wonders for your spouse may do nothing for you. Some of it depends on your genes. You and your doctor will need to come up with a custom-tailored approach.

For most people, the first high cholesterol treatment to try is three lifestyle changes:

  • Eating better
  • Maintaining (or losing) weight
  • Exercising more

Some people, if they already have other risk factors — such as diabetes — may immediately start medication as well.

While lifestyle changes can really help bring your cholesterol down, Wong says that not enough people give them a real chance.

“The problem is that both patients and their doctors like immediate results,” he tells WebMD. “Lowering your cholesterol with exercise and diet is just not like that.”

So try to give high cholesterol lifestyle treatments time to work. If they do, you can avoid the hassle of being on a daily medicine for the rest of your life.

Eating Right as a High Cholesterol Treatment

We’ve all heard that diet has an effect on cholesterol, but there’s much confusion about what you should or shouldn’t eat. Here’s a rundown of the current evidence.

  • Fat. If you have high cholesterol, you should cut down on saturated fat — found in fatty meats and whole milk dairy products like cheese, ice cream, and butter. You also need to reduce your intake of trans fats, a man-made fat found in many processed foods, like stick margarine.But the message isn’t as simple as “fat is bad.” There are a number of foods with healthy unsaturated fats that will actually improve your cholesterol. They include fatty fish like tuna and salmon, walnuts, and almonds. Since even good fats are high in calories, you should still eat them in moderation.
  • Calories. According to Wong, the importance of counting your calories is often overlooked by people with high cholesterol. No matter how much or how little fat or cholesterol is in a food, its calories still add up. Eating too much of it can lead to weight gain, and that increases your risk of high cholesterol.
  • High cholesterol foods. Experts have long urged people with high cholesterol to shun foods loaded with cholesterol, like egg yolks, shrimp, and organ meats. While some recent evidence suggests eggs may not be quite as harmful as once thought, experts still generally recommend you limit all high cholesterol foods. Also, don’t assume that a food labeled “cholesterol-free” is necessarily good for you.

So what sort of diet works as a high cholesterol treatment? Ask your doctor for specific recommendations. Some experts recommend a Mediterranean-style diet, which cuts down on saturated and trans fats, while boosting intake of healthy unsaturated fats from fish and nuts.

If an improved diet doesn’t help your cholesterol, don’t feel like a failure. Because of their genes, some people just don’t respond as well to this approach.