Medicine and Treatment for High Cholesterol in Murfreesboro, TN
I’m Dr. Helton.
I started practicing medicine in the year 2000, and over the past 19 years have treated and served over 15,000 patients. I’m the current president of the Middle Tennessee chapter of Family Physicians, an Executive board member of the Tennessee Academy of Family Physicians and Chairman of St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital Family Medicine Department.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.
High cholesterol can be inherited, but it’s often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, and thus preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can go a long way toward reducing high cholesterol.
Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycaemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.
High cholesterol typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. In most cases it only causes emergency events. For instance, a heart attack or stroke can result from the damage caused by high cholesterol.
These emergencies typically don’t occur until high cholesterol leads to the formation of plaque in your arteries. Plaque from high cholesterol can narrow arteries so less blood can pass through. The formation of plaque changes the makeup of your arterial lining. This could lead to serious complications.
A blood test is the only way to know if your cholesterol is too high. This means having a total blood cholesterol level above 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Ask your doctor to give you a cholesterol test after you turn 20 years old. Then get your cholesterol rechecked every 4 to 6 years.
Your doctor may also suggest you have your cholesterol checked more frequently if you have a family history of high cholesterol. Or if you demonstrate the following risk factors:
- have high blood pressure
- are overweight
If left untreated, high cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in your arteries. Over time, this plaque can narrow your arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a serious condition. It can limit the flow of blood through your arteries. It also raises your risk of developing dangerous blood clots.
Atherosclerosis can result in many life-threatening complications, such as:
- heart attack
- angina (chest pain)
- high blood pressure
- peripheral vascular disease
- chronic kidney disease
High cholesterol can also create a bile imbalance, raising your risk of gallstones. See the other ways that high cholesterol can impact your body.
High Cholesterol can be lowered or prevented in two ways. One is through medication and the other is through lifestyle change. Therapists or GP’s may prescribe either of the two options or a mix of both.
Statins are the most commonly prescribed medications for high cholesterol. They block your liver from producing more cholesterol.
Examples of statins include:
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- fluvastatin (Lescol)
- rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- simvastatin (Zocor)
Your doctor may also prescribe other medications for high cholesterol, such as:
- bile acid resins or sequesterants, such as colesevalam (Welchol), colestipol (Colestid), or cholestyramine (Prevalite)
- cholesterol absorption inhibitors, such as ezetimibe (Zetia)
Some products contain a combination of drugs to help decrease your body’s absorption of cholesterol from foods and reduce your liver’s production of cholesterol. One example is a combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin (Vytorin).
Lowering cholesterol through diet
To help you achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, our doctors may recommend changes to your diet.
For example, they may advise you to:
- limit your intake of foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats
- choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, and legumes
- eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- opt for baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, and roasted foods instead of fried foods
- avoid fast food and junk food
Foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, or trans fats include:
- red meat, organ meats, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy products
- processed foods made with cocoa butter, palm oil, or coconut oil
- deep fried foods, such as potato chips, onion rings, and fried chicken
- certain baked goods, such as some cookies and muffins
Eating fish and other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower your LDL levels. For example, salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich sources of omega-3s. Walnuts, almonds, ground flax seeds, and avocados also contain omega-3s.