Treating Hypercholesterolemia: Diet, Drugs, and More

Hypercholesterolemia occurs when you have high-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Another name for this condition is dyslipidemia.

If you have been diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia, a doctor or health care professional will likely recommend lifestyle changes and possibly medications to lower your cholesterol. By making these changes, you can lower your risk of health problems associated with hypercholesterolemia, such as coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease.

Lifestyle factors are the most common cause of hypercholesterolemia. However, there are other causes of hypercholesterolemia, usually because of genetic changes that can cause your body to develop high cholesterol. An example is familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).

FH can cause severely high cholesterol, often at a much younger age than normal. Doctors will treat most people with FH with the same cholesterol-lowering drugs as those with lifestyle-related hypercholesterolemia.

However, if you have severely high cholesterol due to a genetic condition (sometimes even more than 500 milligrams per deciliter), a doctor may recommend a treatment called lipoprotein apheresis. This treatment involves starting an IV and connecting it to a machine that cleans your blood of excess cholesterol.

Hypercholesterolemia treatments usually include: a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to lower cholesterol. Your healthcare provider’s recommendations will likely depend on how high your cholesterol is and whether you have other risk factors for heart disease such as obesity or diabetes.

If you are at high risk, a doctor will likely recommend taking medications to lower your cholesterol.

It is important to remember that these are just general guidelines. A doctor will always have the most informed information about your condition and the best way to treat it.

Lifestyle changes, such as exercise and smoking cessation, can help lower high cholesterol. This can also be done by making changes in the diet. These lifestyle changes may be especially important in treating high cholesterol in children.

Choosing fresh foods over ready-made foods can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.

Dietary approaches to try include:

  • eating a diet high in fiber, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • choosing fatty fish such as salmon, cod, or canned tuna, which contain “healthy” fats that provide heart-boosting benefits
  • selecting lean cuts of beef and pork, which are commonly referred to as loin, sirloin steak, or round
  • selecting lean cuts of meat, such as skinless chicken, white meat, or turkey
  • opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and ice cream

Dietary approaches to avoid include:

If you have hypercholesterolemia, try to keep your dietary cholesterol intake below 200mg per day. The average daily cholesterol intake for adults is: 293mg per day.

Many medications commonly used to treat high cholesterol are not safe for use during pregnancy. The drugs that may have harmful effects on a baby include:

  • statins
  • cholesterol absorption inhibitors
  • niacin
  • fibrates

However, you can use bile acid sequestrants to lower cholesterol if you are pregnant. These drugs stop your stomach from absorbing the bile acid your liver needs to make cholesterol. Because they block a body process and are not absorbed into the bloodstream, bile acid sequestrants are safe for pregnancy.

If you are expecting and have high cholesterol or if your cholesterol rises during pregnancy, talk to a doctor about safe treatment methods.

Whether or not hypercholesterolemia is curable depends on why you have the condition in the first place. Genetic disorders that lead to hypercholesterolemia are generally treatable, but not curable.

If your hypercholesterolemia is lifestyle related, it’s possible that the lifestyle changes you continue to make can “cure” your high cholesterol. However, some people need drug therapies that continue to treat high cholesterol.

Treatments for hypercholesterolemia mainly include lifestyle changes and medications. Each of these treatments will help improve your heart health and lower your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Ask a doctor how often you should have your cholesterol checked and how to treat high cholesterol if you have it. Be sure to tell a doctor if you have a family history of hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol.

Treating Hypercholesterolemia: Diet, Drugs, and More

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