Medication: For You? For Life?

As we talked about in this Chapter , your levels of cholesterol, combined with your other risk factors for heart disease, determine your need for medication. Your doctor will ikely recommend prescription medication if your LDL level remains between 160 and 189 after three months on the Live It Doum Plan and if you have none of the following risk factors: 

  • A history of coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes, or hypertension, or a family history of premature CHD.
  • Smoking.
  • An HDL level below 40 milligrams per deciliter,

If you don’t have any of these risk factors and your LDL level is more than 190, your doctor will likely recommend that you start on medication at the same time that you begin following the Plan. But it’s worth noting that the use of medication doesn’t have to mean a permanent commitment.

If you improve your diet and increase your activity level, in the process you may reduce vour cholesterol enough to get off the medication and stay off it. If you do have any of the above risk factors, your doctor will likely recommend medication even when your LDL level is lower, Once you start on a cholesterollowering medication, you may need to remain on it for the rest of your life. These drugs don’t “cure” your high cholesterol; they merely prevent your body from producing or absorbing cholesterol while you’re taking the drug. Once you stop, your cholesterol levels will return to their premedication levels, unless the lifestyle changes you’ve made have had an impact.

About Safety and Side Effects

So you’ve left your doctor’s office with a prescription, All of the advice and warnings went in one ear and out the other, Now you’re worried about the side effects of this medication, It’s a valid concern. Every drug— even aspirin—has risks. But keep in mind that if your doctor prescribes a medication, it’s because the benefit outweighs the harm. And, frankly, in most cases the harm is relativelyslight. Millions of people take cholesterol-lowering drugs with few or no problems. Many of the drugs in use today have been used for 15 or more years.

The most common side effects with most of these drugs are gastrointestinal problems, like nausea or stormach upset. Tell your doctor about any problems you’re having, particularly if they persist. You may be able to change the dose or switch to a different medication—there’s no reason to suffer. 

There’s also a very slight risk of liver problems, because cholesterol drugs are processed in the liver, which puts additional stress on the organ. That’s why your doctor will take blood tests to measure liver enzyme levels, a kind of snapshot of your liver’s health, before Starting you on a cholestero} medication. Six to eight weeks after starting the medication beginyou’ll undergo another test to make sure your liver is handling the drug all right. Even if your a few * Hil iin aspirin (81 milligrams) every within a few weeks, even while you continue day. Check with your doctor to take the medication.

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