Cholesterol is vital in producing energy and maintaining the smooth running of every cell in the body, but many people can be uncertain as to what a healthy level should be.
Patients typically ask me “Should I be lowering my cholesterol?” and “Can I lower my cholesterol level without taking medication?”. I tell them that a level of more than 6mmol/litre is considered to be high and the target should be 5mmol/litre – lower if they are diabetic or have existing heart disease.
Losing weight and making dietary changes are crucial in helping to lower cholesterol but many people do find it difficult to alter their lifestyle. Exercising regularly, sticking to a diet low in fat and rich in fruit, vegetables and olive oil, all help. Referring patients to a dietician or weight-management classes can be very helpful, as can exercise on prescription for people who find it difficult to become motivated to exercise.
If medication is needed, the first choice is tablets called statins. Although generally very well tolerated, side effects can occasionally occur and patients should discuss how they feel a month or two after starting to take them.
People can be surprised that they feel no different when their cholesterol level falls and I often tell them that lowering cholesterol is an insurance policy – having high cholesterol may increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack in the future.
Don’t forget, you can find further information about controlling your cholesterol on the Pfizer life website.
CA0001419 Date of preparation February 2012
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