We know that we should maintain cholesterol levels under 200 mg/dL to keep our risk of heart attack low. Additionally, medical research has shown that out of just over a thousand people who were hospitalized for stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as ‘mini-stroke’, 27 percent had cholesterol levels higher than the recommended limit. In addition, Huntington’s disease, a progressive degenerative disease in which brain cell waste away, has been positively linked to a high level of cholesterol in the arteries leading to the brain.
High cholesterol levels have been suggested, but not yet proven to be a factor in Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition. Since cholesterol levels impact two important bodily organs, it is incumbent that people monitor their cholesterol levels. One strategy is to control weight by eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
The individual who achieves an overall healthier lifestyle will often have success at lowering cholesterol levels. This includes stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol. Carbohydrate consumption should also be limited to less than 50% of the caloric intake since carbohydrates, in some individuals, raise triglycerides and lower HDL, or good, cholesterol.
But even when people assiduously limit their cholesterol intake, it may be a difficult matter to lower levels since cholesterol is manufactured in copious amounts in our bodies. There are tools at our disposal to lower cholesterol and exercise is one method of choice. It is recommended that people with high cholesterol levels participate in at least 30 minutes of continual movement per day.
This can be walking, swimming, gardening or even vigorous housework, but it should be done daily. Also, consuming more fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables or whole-grain cereals, especially oats, can help to lower cholesterol. If these measures don’t effectively lower levels, there are medications to lower cholesterol.
Discuss with your doctor
Discuss your cholesterol levels with your doctor and decide which of the medications, some of which may be taken together for increased effectiveness, are right for you. Statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) slow down cholesterol production and remove cholesterol buildup in the arteries. Lipitor, Pravachol, and Zocor are some examples of brand names.
Resins (bile acid sequestrants) lower LDL cholesterol level and examples of bile acid sequestrants’ brand names are Prevalite and Questran. Fibrates (fibric acid derivatives) lower cholesterol by reducing the amount of triglycerides and increasing the level of “good” or LDL cholesterol.
Brand name examples of these drugs are Antara, Lofibra, and Tricor. Niacin or nicotinic acid is a B vitamin that, at high doses, lowers triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL levels. Even though this is available over the counter, it should not be taken lower cholesterol unless prescribed by a doctor.
Niacin may have side effects
Although this is a natural vitamin, it is stored in the body and can have serious side effects. Cholesterol absorption inhibitors reduce the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed via the intestines and are often given in combination with a statin.
Cholesterol-lowering medications have side effects, though not usually severe. These include either diarrhea or constipation, often accompanied by abdominal pain, cramps, bloating or gas, nausea, and vomiting. Headache is a common side effect, as are drowsiness or dizziness. Muscle aches and facial flushing can occur and cholesterol lowing medication is frequently implicated in sleep problems.