April 20, 2014
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Cholesterol


How can I reduce my risk?

Testing your cholesterol

Because high cholesterol is a silent disease, cholesterol testing is the best way to tell if you have it. Doctors usually recommend cholesterol testing for:

  • men 40 years of age and older
  • women 50 years of age and older
  • postmenopausal women (of any age)
  • people with diabetes
  • people who are obese or overweight (BMI of 27 or higher)
  • smokers
  • people who have high blood pressure
  • people with a strong family history of family members (such as parents or siblings) who have had heart disease at an early age (younger than 60 years)
  • people with physical signs of high cholesterol, such as yellow lesions under the skin or a grey ring around the cornea (the transparent layer that covers the eye)
  • people with atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries)
  • men with symptoms of erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting or maintaining an erection)
  • people with chronic kidney disease
  • people with HIV infection who are receiving treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)
  • people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis
  • children with a family history of high cholesterol levels

Even if you're not in one of these groups, your doctor may decide to test your cholesterol levels if he or she feels it is needed. It's important to get a cholesterol test if your doctor recommends it, so that you can detect and treat high cholesterol early to reduce your risk of cholesterol-related health problems.

Talk to your doctor about whether you should have your cholesterol tested.

Treating high cholesterol

Effective lowering of cholesterol levels saves lives. Lowering cholesterol helps reduce your risk of developing heart disease, heart attacks, and death due to heart disease. Heart disease is the number 2 killer in Canada (second only to cancer), causing about 22% of all deaths.

For every 1.0 mmol/L decrease in your LDL cholesterol (or "bad cholesterol") levels, your risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease falls by 20% to 25%. For this reason, it's important to reduce your "bad cholesterol" levels as much as possible - the lower the better! The recommended target for everyone at risk of developing heart disease is to lower LDL cholesterol by at least 50%.

The usual treatment options for high cholesterol are healthy lifestyle changes, used alone or in combination with medications.

Healthy lifestyle changes include:

  • reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight
  • eating a healthier diet
  • getting regular exercise
  • quitting smoking
  • moderating your alcohol intake

Learn more about these healthy lifestyle changes here.

Medications for high cholesterol include:

  • statins
  • cholesterol absorption inhibitors
  • resins
  • fibrates
  • niacin

Learn more about these medications here.

Talking to your doctor

High cholesterol usually doesn't cause symptoms, so a cholesterol test is the best way to find out if you have high cholesterol. Your doctor can advise you on whether you should get tested. See "Should you be tested? How often?" to learn more about when cholesterol tests are recommended and how often cholesterol levels are usually tested.

If you're wondering about your cholesterol levels, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss cholesterol testing.

To help you prepare for your visit, print off the Doctor discussion guide, fill out as much information as you can, and bring it to your doctor's visit.

Doctor Discussion Guide

Getting tested

The guide will help you talk to your doctor about cholesterol testing.

Print this guide, fill in as much information as you can, and bring a copy to your next doctor's visit.

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The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.

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