A recent study by Quest Diagnostics, a national laboratory chain, suggests that statins, cholesterol lowering drugs, may be losing their effectiveness. Researchers tested the LDL or “bad cholesterol” of over 100 million adults between 2001 and 2011. Over the first seven years, cholesterol levels declined by 13 percent, however, in the last three years, average LDL levels flattened out.
The New York Times reports that the study did not look at causes for the leveling off, but that the author of the study and his colleagues speculate the recession may be a factor. They suggest that hard economic times could have limited patients’ ability to visit their doctor and fill prescriptions for statins, as well as caused increased stress levels in patients, or led to adoption of a higher-fat diet and reduced exercise, all of which can contribute to higher LDL. Concern on the part of physicians and patients regarding possible side effects from higher doses of statins also may play a role in limiting further reductions in cholesterol in the population examined.
What should you do if you are concerned about your cholesterol level?
Know Your Numbers
In an interview with WTOP Radio – interview , Dr. David Brill, cardiologist at Washington Adventist Hospital, stresses that patients should know their cholesterol numbers. Cholesterol targets depend on your personal and family history of heart disease, and a number of cardiovascular risk factors including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.
“It’s very important to know the bad cholesterol number (LDL), which ideally should be less than 100 in patients that do not have known heart disease,” said Dr. Brill.
Diet and Exercise
Making healthy lifestyle choices can also help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease.
Dr. Brill recommends exercising regularly and adopting a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet is a very healthy diet that lowers the risk of heart disease and death from heart disease. Consider incorporating the following heart healthy ingredients into your diet: fresh vegetables, soy, almonds, walnuts, Omega 3 fatty acids, olive oil, oat bran, and fiber such as oatmeal, beans, salmon and oily fish, fresh fruit and whole grains.
Talk to Your Doctor
Dr. Brill adds, “[Patients] should talk to their physicians and make informed decisions about whether or not they should take cholesterol medications.”
He explains that despite what this study suggests, statins have been very effective in terms of lowering cholesterol and preventing serious events such as heart attack and death in patients. Their safety and tolerability have been demonstrated in pooled studies of large groups of patients treated. While making healthy lifestyle choices is important, those with high cardiovascular risk may require medication.
If you have questions about this study or how to best manage your cholesterol, please speak with your doctor. To find a cardiologist in your area call 1-800-642-0101 or visit www.AdventistHealthCare.com/FindaDoc.
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