Do you know your cholesterol levels? This important piece of information can offer a window into your heart health. High cholesterol often has no symptoms. Left untreated, it can cause fatty deposits that build up inside your arteries, which may lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and other problems. Keeping an eye on your numbers is key for taking key steps, if needed, to lower your cholesterol level and protect your ticker.
Recently, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association published new cholesterol management guidelines. One of the main changes from the previous guideline, published in 2013, is that healthcare providers are now encouraged to take a more personalized approach when treating patients. For example, when a provider is determining the best treatment plan, the guideline recommends they consider many different factors. These include a patient’s age, heart disease risk, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol level, and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Then, based on that information, the guideline offers a roadmap for treating patients with lifestyle changes and cholesterol-lowering medicines such as statins, to help lower a patient’s risk.
Another important update to the guidelines is the recommendation of prescribing other cholesterol-lowering medicines along with statins, for some patients. For example, people who’ve had a heart attack or stroke and are at high risk of having another may benefit from taking other medicines if their cholesterol levels aren’t lowered enough with statins. Other medicines such as ezetimibe and PCK9 inhibitors can help bring cholesterol levels within a healthier range for these people.
Most important, the guideline urges healthcare providers and patients to work together for treatments to be most effective. If you have high cholesterol, are at risk for heart disease, or aren’t sure what your numbers may be, talk with your doctor. Together, you can decide when you should be tested and how best to improve your heart health and overall well-being.