High Cholesterol – Good and Bad
High cholesterol and triglyceride levels are at epidemic proportions in the United States. It is estimated that there are 30 million affected individuals with this condition but only about 10% are treated with medications. This is an unfortunate fact considering that vascular disease (heart disease, stroke) combined is the leading cause of death in the United States. Multiple clinical studies have shown the dramatic beneficial effects of the main class of cholesterol lowering drugs, the statins. The summary of these studies is that they provide a 25-35% secondary risk reduction in ischemic vascular events. The class of statins include: Zocor, Lipitor, Pravachol, Crestor and Mevacor. While highly effective in lowering total cholesterol as well as “bad cholesterol” and raising “good cholesterol” (LDL and HDL, respectively, these medications require lab monitoring for liver and muscle problems. Fortunately the incidence of severe side effects is low. More commonly, patients treated with these drugs can have muscle and joint pains. With proper treatment and monitoring, patient’s experience an over all improvement in health and marked reduction in their risk for having a stroke or heart attack. For every 1 million patients treated with one of these agents, 10,000 stroke and heart attacks are prevented, annually. The economic and personal benefits of this are staggering.
There are other non-medication ways that individuals can lower their cholesterol. The American Heart Association lists the benefits of taking fish oil supplements in cholesterol reduction. Other nutritional aids can include flax seed and limiting sugar intake. Of course regular, daily exercise, stop smoking and a healthy, low-fat diet are all important in controlling cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
In summary, one cannot “feel” elevated cholesterol levels. It is an insidious disease that causes a slow death by gradually blocking off arteries that carry blood to the vital organs of the body. If you are overweight, have diabetes, smoke or have a family history of these or high cholesterol, you should see you health care professional for further evaluation.