If you're on cholesterol treatment, you probably have plenty of questions. Here are the answers to some frequently-asked questions about cholesterol treatment.
What cholesterol levels should I aim for?
Your target cholesterol levels will depend on your risk of heart disease. You can calculate your risk of heart disease using our target cholesterol levels and heart disease risk calculator. This calculator will also give you some recommendations on which cholesterol levels to aim for. But the calculator is only to give you a general guideline - you should also talk to your doctor about which treatment targets are right for you.
To learn more about cholesterol target levels and see a chart showing the usual recommended target levels, see "Setting goals."
How do I know if my cholesterol treatment is working?
Your treatment is working if you are meeting the treatment goals set by your doctor. These may include:
- Getting your LDL cholesterol down to certain target levels. Generally speaking, when it comes to LDL cholesterol, the lower the better. Reducing LDL by at least 50% is usually the main goal of treatment.
- Reaching target levels on other additional targets your doctor may choose (such as apoB, total cholesterol to HDL-C ratio, triglycerides, hs-CRP levels, or the ratio of apoB to apoAI). To learn more about these targets, see "Setting goals."
If you have any questions about your treatment goals or how to tell whether your treatment is working, speak to your doctor. [link to main doctor discussion guide]
What can I do to avoid or manage side effects from my cholesterol medication?
Many people stop taking their cholesterol medication because of side effects. Don't let this happen to you! Follow these steps to reduce your risk of side effects and manage them if they do occur:
- Check with your doctor to see whether you are on the most appropriate cholesterol medication or the most appropriate dose of your cholesterol medication. You may need to try different medications or doses (as recommended by your doctor) until you find the medication and dose that controls your cholesterol without causing bothersome side effects.
- Take your medication exactly as directed. Follow instructions from your doctor or pharmacist about what to do if you miss a dose so that you don't accidentally take a double dose. If you're having trouble remembering whether you took your medication, ask your pharmacist about using a dosette.
- Know which side effects to watch for. To learn more about possible side effects from your cholesterol medication, see "Using medication as directed" or read the drug factsheet for your medication.
- Watch for side effects when a new medication is started or when your dose is increased. If you notice any side effects or other changes that worry you, talk to your doctor. Most side effects can be managed.
If I'm taking a cholesterol medication, does that mean I can quit my diet and exercise?
No - cholesterol medications are intended to be used in combination with lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, quitting smoking, and exercise. A combination of the two gives the best results for lowering your cholesterol. Plus, these healthy lifestyle changes also help reduce your risk of heart disease and help you look and feel great!