High Cholesterol is a condition which does not always cause any outward physical symptoms, but can lead to serious illnesses, such as heart disease.
- Characterised by high fat levels in the blood
- Lifestyle habits can be a catalyst
- Can be treated with drugs called statins
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High cholesterol is a condition defined by a high presence of a particular kind of fat in the bloodstream. It does not result in any direct outwardly symptoms, but can lead to serious illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, and angina. Treatment for high cholesterol aims to reduce the risk of these by lowering the production of these fats in the body.
There are several factors which can contribute to high cholesterol. These include dietary and lifestyle habits; for instance, a person may be more likely to have high cholesterol if they consume a lot of food which is abundant in saturated fats, frequently drink large amounts of alcohol, or smoke. Someone who has an unhealthy diet and doesn’t exercise regularly may also be at risk.
Although cholesterol is more commonly associated with fatty food, what many people don’t realise is that it works in the body as a nutrient, playing an integral role in the formation of healthy cell tissue. The liver produces cholesterol, and these fats are then taken up by proteins, to form lipoproteins. These are then couriered to various parts of the body through the bloodstream.
There are two main types of lipoprotein; low density (LDLs) and high density (HDLs). These are referred to as ‘bad’ and ‘good’ cholesterol, respectively. LDLs export fats from the liver; while HDLs transport them back to the liver, where they are decimated and excreted as waste.
High cholesterol is said to be present when LDLs are in abundant supply, and in large numbers, these can stick within the arterial pathways and cause obstructions to blood flow. This can then potentially lead to heart and respiratory problems.
The treatment of this condition begins with addressing those contributing factors described above. This might be cutting down a person’s intake of alcohol or saturated fats, and a programme of light exercise. But in those instances where these approaches have not yielded significant results, a doctor may advise a course of statins to supplement them.
Products such as Crestor, Lipostat and Zocor work by inhibiting the function of an enzyme found in the liver. This enzyme is called HMG-CoA reductase, and is a catalyst for the production of cholesterol. By lessening the efficacy of the enzyme, statins reduce the amount of these fats made by the liver, thus scaling down their presence in the body.
Ezetrol is an example of a cholesterol absorption inhibitor. This operates in a slightly different way, by working in the small intestine to decrease the extent to which these fats are assimilated and converted into the bloodstream.
These methods will require monitoring by a doctor at regular intervals. In cases where the above products are not having the desired results, a practitioner may choose to adjust their dosage accordingly.
We do not provide high cholesterol medicines through our site. If you want to know more about the treatments available, or are looking to renew your prescription, we recommend you see your GP.
Types of Treatment
One of the first measures a doctor may take in treating high cholesterol is to address any health or lifestyle factors which may be present and conducive to the problem. They may suggest lowering saturated fat intake, decreasing alcohol consumption and undertaking light exercise.
In cases where these measures alone have not sufficed or where levels are high enough to pose a significant risk, they may choose to prescribe medication. This is in two main forms: statins, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors.
How do they work?
Statins such as Crestor, Lescol and Lipostat work by preventing the function of a particular enzyme found in the liver. This enzyme is responsible for the production of cholesterol, before it is carried through the bloodstream by proteins. By limiting its activity, the statin helps to lower the presence of cholesterol in the body.
Ezetrol, which is an absorption inhibitor, works in a slightly different way. This helps to block the process by which the small intestine soaks up cholesterol found in food; thus reducing the levels of these fats. Absorption inhibitors are typically used in conjunction with statins, where use of the latter alone has not succeeded in treating the condition.
What are the side effects?
The most common side effects of statins include headache and stomach pain; however these may differ between specific products. Those associated with Ezetrol include stomachache, diarrhoea and tiredness. Refer to the relevant product leaflet for more information.
Can I take them with other medications?
In some cases, you may not be able to use these drugs at the same time as other products. Let your prescriber know if you are currently using any other medications during consultation.
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What’s the difference between the medications?
There are two main types: statins and cholesterol absorption inhibitors. The latter is only prescribed as a supplementary measure to the former, in cases where statins alone have not succeeded.
Should I take statins or cholesterol absorption inhibitors?
Normally, cholesterol absorption inhibitors are taken in addition to statins. Neither should be taken unless accompanied by a wider programme to reduce cholesterol, which may include a specific diet.
Your GP will determine which, if any, medication for high cholesterol you should take. Where necessary, they will issue a prescription for the most suitable option.
Are there different side effects?
Yes. The common side effects for most statins are largely similar, including headache and abdominal discomfort, but you should still consult the information supplied for each before use.
Is it right for me?
If you have high cholesterol, the treatment you use will be determined by your GP during your regular review.
Please note that we do not sell high cholesterol treatments through our site.
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