The higher your cholesterol the higher your heart disease risk level. High cholesterol is one of the multiple risk factors for heart disease. You can calculate your heart disease risk level using our heart disease risk calculator.
Lowering your cholesterol can have a major impact on your risk of developing heart disease. 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%. That's why 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%. By getting your cholesterol under control, you can help reduce your risk of dying from heart disease. Effective treatment saves lives!
Normally, you can't see or feel high cholesterol - it's usually a "silent disease." But left untreated, high cholesterol can lead to very serious complications, including heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, angina (chest pain), circulation problems, and death.
The usual goal of treatment is to lower your "bad cholesterol" 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%. Each reduction in bad cholesterol is associated with a large drop in the risk of heart attacks and dying from heart disease: for every 1.0 mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol, this risk goes down by 20% to 25%.
The usual treatment options for high cholesterol are healthy lifestyle changes, used alone or in combination with medications.
Healthy lifestyle changes include:
Learn more about these healthy lifestyle changes here. Healthy lifestyle changes can help address your modifiable risk factors (things you can change) for heart disease. But there are also non-modifiable risk factors (things you can't change). Medications can help offset some of the risk caused by these factors.
Medications for high cholesterol include:
Learn more about these medications here.
Talk to your doctor to learn more about finding the treatment that's right for you.
This section deals with some common issues that you may have during medication treatment. To learn more about specific medications, click here.
If you start medication therapy, you and your doctor will work together to set goals for your treatment. Having clear goals will make it easier to evaluate the success of your treatment. The main goal for cholesterol medication treatment is to reach certain target cholesterol levels. In general, the lower your cholesterol levels, the better. The target for everyone is to reduce LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) by at least 50% from their starting cholesterol level.
Talk to your doctor what your cholesterol target levels should be. To learn more, read "Setting goals."
Concerns about side effects are common if you are considering starting treatment with cholesterol medications. Fortunately, most side effects can be managed, and there are steps you can take to reduce the impact of potential side effects:
It can be hard to stick with your medication, for many reasons:
For tips on how to deal with these issues, read "Staying motivated."
Without proper treatment, high cholesterol can cause serious complications, such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, angina (chest pain), circulation problems, and death.
Your doctor can help you find the cholesterol treatment that's right for you.
To help you prepare for your visit, print the doctor discussion guide, fill out as much information as you can, and bring it to your doctor's visit.