If bad lifestyle choices are the cause of raised LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, then lifestyle changes must be the first item on one’s treatment and rehabilitation agenda.
Choosing fish and vegetables over red meat or untrimmed pork, boiled food over fried ones, and skim over whole milk are only some of the healthier diet resolutions one can make. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as bangus (milkfish) belly or salmon can help increase HDL or good cholesterol and offset bad cholesterol. Eat some high fiber foods, too.
Cardiologists also advise patients to increase physical activity. Brisk walking for an hour five times each week (or its equivalent) is the best cardiovascular exercise.
If diet and exercise are not enough, doctors can then prescribe medications, specifically statin drugs that lower the level of bad cholesterol. Cardiologists like DOH consultant Dr. Willie T. Ong follow guidelines stipulated in the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) in administering drugs to patients with high cholesterol. With 200 mg/dL as the normal or threshold level for total cholesterol, the NCEP’s recommendations are:
For patients with a total cholesterol level of more than 280 mg/dL or an LDL cholesterol level above 190 mg/dL, drug treatment may be started if diet and exercise over a period of eight weeks do not bring the levels down.
For patients with heart disease, hypertension, or who are heavy smokers, drug treatment is already started with a cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL.
For patients with diabetes or who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, drug treatment may be started if the level breaches 200 mg/dL.
But before medication is started, Dr. Ong emphasizes the need to obtain accurate cholesterol level figures. The accuracy of such results can be guaranteed if the test is done by a very reputable laboratory and if the 12-hour fasting period is religiously observed. Repeat tests must be done at least a month after non-drug interventions have been ordered to check if the cholesterol levels have improved.