Atherosclerosis

How Cholesterol-Lowering MEDICATION Can Help

In addition to lifestyle modifications, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your cholesterol.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs have been studied in thousands of people and have been proven to lower cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs called “statins” have also been clinically proven to reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke in people at risk for cardiovascular disease.5

Using these medications in clinical studies, it has been found that patients have up to:5

  • 59% fewer non-fatal heart attacks
  • 47% fewer strokes
  • 51% fewer operations for coronary heart disease

Some of these drugs have also been shown to actually stop the progression of cholesterol build-up in the arteries or what is called atherosclerosis.6

Talk to your doctor to find out whether cholesterol-lowering medication is right for you.

GOALS to Aim For

High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels can be controlled.

  • Aim to get your blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg (or 130/80 mmHg if you have diabetes)7
  • Ask your doctor what cholesterol levels you should aim for – the higher your risk of heart attack and stroke, the lower your cholesterol levels should be1
  • Sometimes even people with seemingly normal cholesterol levels can reduce their risk of heart disease by lowering them further8
Keep reading for ways to meet these goals!

Remembering to take your medication

Some of us find it difficult to remember to take our medication every day. Here are some tips that might help:9
Associate taking your cholesterol-lowering medication with something you do at the same time every day, such as eating meals or brushing your teeth

  • Use a pillbox with daily compartments
  • Post a note on your calendar, mirror, telephone or refrigerator
  • Get a friend or family member to remind you
  • Keep a day’s supply of your cholesterol-lowering medication in your pocket or purse in case you forget to take it at home or stay away longer than expected
  • When you pick up your cholesterol-lowering medication from the pharmacy, make a note on your calendar to remind you when to refill the prescription

What does ATHEROSCLEROSIS have to do with CHOLESTEROL and your heart?

When living with HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE always consider CHOLESTEROL too

The Problem of CHOLESTEROL

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is mainly produced by the liver. Your body needs it to function normally.1
However, when there is too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, the extra amount is deposited in your arteries, where it contributes to the narrowing and blockages that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. This is called atherosclerosis.1

Blood vessel with atherosclerosisNormal blood vessel

Having high cholesterol levels increases the risk that you will have a heart attack or a stroke.1 Fortunately, lowering your cholesterol levels can significantly lower the chance that this will happen.1

How Does ATHEROSCLEROSIS Develop?2

Adapted from Libby2

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE Can Put You at a Greater Risk of a Heart Attack or Stroke…

When it comes to high blood pressure, every 20 mmHg increase in the first number (systolic blood pressure) or 10 mmHg increase in the second number (diastolic blood pressure) doubles the risk of death from atherosclerosis-caused diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.3
120/80 mmHg = healthy
140/80 mmHg = 2 x the risk of heart attack or stroke
140/90 mmHg = 4 x the risk of heart attack or stroke
160/90 mmHg = 8 x the risk of heart attack or stroke

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE with HIGH CHOLESTEROL can increase your risk

  • People with high blood pressure often have other risk factors as well – such as high cholesterol levels1
  • In fact, cholesterol can do more damage in persons with high blood pressure than those without, even at cholesterol levels that would otherwise be considered normal. It accumulates in the walls of their blood vessels, narrowing or blocking them until it causes a heart attack or stroke4
Fortunately, lowering your cholesterol levels and controlling your diabetes can significantly lower that risk.

What YOU CAN Do

There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke:

  • Stop smoking
  • Lose weight if you are overweight – aim to keep your waist measurement below 102 cm if you are male or 88 cm if you are female
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet with
    • Lots of vegetables, fruit and whole grains
    • Less sugar and fatty foods
  • Talk to your doctor to learn more about healthy lifestyle changes

References: 1. Grundy SM, Bekker D, Clark LT, Cooper RS, Denke MA, Howard J, et al. Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatmen Panel III). Final Report. Circulation 2002;106:3143. 2. Libby P. Current concepts of the pathogenesis of the acute coronary syndromes. Circulation 2001; 104:365-72. 3. Lewington S, Clarke R, Qizilbash N, Peto R, Collins R. Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: A metaanalysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies. Prospective Studies Collaboration. Lancet 2002;360:1903-12. 4. Poulter N. Coronary heart disease is a multifactorial disease. Am J Hypertens 1999; 12(10 Pt 2):92S-95S. 5. Athyros VG, Papageorgiou AA, Mercouris BR, Athyrou VV, Symeonidis AN, Basayannis EO, et al. Treatment with atorvastatin to the National Cholesterol Educational Program goal versus ‘usual’ care in secondary coronary heart disease prevention. The Greek Atorvastatin and Coronary-heart-disease Evaluation (GREACE) study. Curr Med Res Opin 2002; 18:220-28. 6. Nissen SE. Halting the progression of atherosclerosis with intensive lipid lowering: results from the Reversal of Atherosclerosis with Aggressive Lipid Lowering (REVERSAL) trial. Am J Med 2005;118:22S-27S. 7. Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, Cushman C, Green LA, Izzo JL, et al. The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure: the JNC 7 Report. JAMA 2003;289:2560-72. 8. Sever PS, Dahlöf B, Poulter NR, Wedel H, Beevers G, Caulfield M, et al for the ASCOT Investigators. Prevention of coronary and stroke events with atorvastatin in hypertensive patients who have average or lower-than-average cholesterol concentrations, in the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial-Lipid Lowering Arm (ASCOT-LLA): a multicentre, randomized, controlled trial. Lancet 2003; 361:1149-58. 9. Case Management Society of America. Case Management Adherence Guidelines version 2.0. June 2006. Available at http://www.cmsa.org.  Accessed on 9 December 2009.
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