Sticking to treatment: Why it can be hard

Cholesterol treatment often includes a combination of medication plus diet changes and exercise. If you're having trouble sticking to your treatment, you're not alone. Apparently, medication noncompliance (not taking your medication as prescribed) is very common – affecting as many as 40% to 50% of people who have chronic health conditions, such as high cholesterol.

So, why are people not sticking to their treatment? There are many different reasons. The first is that people think cholesterol is "just a number." Because they don't feel it, it doesn't bother them. They're often not aware that high cholesterol is linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Many people also don't stick to their treatment because of concerns about side effects. The most commonly reported side effects of cholesterol pills are muscle-related problems. However, they can be managed by implementing different strategies, and these side effects are rare in some medications. The risks for muscle-related side effects also vary depending on individuals. Given the benefits of taking these medications, it's important to consult with a doctor or pharmacist to come up with the best treatment plan that meets your needs.

Information is another factor that comes into play. Doctor's visits are often quite short. People may not be sure what questions to ask during the visit or they may feel overwhelmed or intimidated during the visit. As a result, they may not have the information they need to make a fully informed decision about the risks and benefits of the medication. It is helpful to be as specific as possible when asking questions, and come prepared with a list of questions to ask during your visit.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Your-Treatment-Making-a-Commitment

How staying with treatment can help you

Treating high cholesterol can help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and circulation problems.

Left untreated, high cholesterol builds up in your arteries, forming a plaque. The plaque grows and often ruptures, causing a blood clot that can block the blood vessels. A blocked blood vessel in the brain can cause a stroke, and a blocked blood vessel in the heart can cause a heart attack. Even before it ruptures, a plaque can narrow the blood vessels, which could lead to circulation problems.

Treating high cholesterol can change the course of the disease and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and circulation problems. Plus, more aggressive treatment of cholesterol can lead to better results. We can not only slow down the formation of plaques in the blood vessels, but actually reverse it if we get cholesterol levels low enough. So, if you stick with your treatment, you can not only stop new damage – you may also be able to reverse some of the damage that has already been done. The better you stick to your treatment, the better your results will be.

In fact, taking your medication consistently could even help you live longer. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at people with high cholesterol who were using a type of cholesterol medication known as statins. They found that people who took their medication regularly (at least 80% of the time) were much more likely to survive than those who didn't (i.e., those who took their medication less than 80% of the time), and this wasn't just because people who take their medication regularly also tend to live a healthier lifestyle.

Often, people have good intentions about taking their medication, but things get in the way.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Your-Treatment-Making-a-Commitment

What you can do to stick with your treatment

Most people do not take their cholesterol treatment as recommended by their doctor. It's important to examine the reasons why you may not be taking your treatment. Then you can find ways to cope with these issues. Here are some suggestions.

Putting side effects into perspective

Concern about side effects is a common reason people don't use their treatment. People tend to overestimate the risk of side effects. It's important to put side effects into perspective. For example, although cholesterol-lowering medications, especially statins, may cause muscle-related side effects, , it can be managed by a few modifications and the benefits of statins far outweigh any risks of side effects. Talk to your doctor about which side effects you may expect, how likely they are (in real numbers) and what you should do if they occur.

Making the benefits real to you

Often, people don't stick with their cholesterol treatment because the benefits just don't seem real to them. Cholesterol seems like "just a number" that you can't see or feel. But it's much more than this – lowering your cholesterol can dramatically reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack and help you live longer. To help make this more real to you, we suggest:

  • Print out a picture of an artery with cholesterol build-up or a heart damaged by clogged arteries (such as the warning picture seen on some cigarette packages) and another artery that's clear and healthy so you can see how your treatment is helping behind the scenes.
  • Ask your doctor about your cholesterol treatment targets, and get copies of your blood tests to see if you're getting closer to your targets.
  • Think of your blood vessels as a car, and your cholesterol treatment as a special rust-proofer that not only prevents rust from building up but, if used right, can also repair some existing rust damage. You need to apply the rust-proofer regularly for it to work properly, but if you do, your car will stay rust-free.

Dealing with other issues

  • If you tend to forget to refill your medication, ask your pharmacy about automated refills or text reminders to fill your prescription.
  • If you tend to forget to take your medication, try to get into a routine where you take it at the same time each day, put the medication somewhere it is easy to see, leave yourself reminders (such as sticky notes or an alarm app), and coordinate taking your medication with other activities you do each day.
  • If you're having problems finding time to exercise, try exercising in periods of at least 10 minutes each instead of trying to block off 30 to 60 minutes all at once.
  • If you're not sure how to change your diet, talk to a registered dietitian; they can help steer you in the right direction about your diet.
  • Remember that although diet and exercise can help control cholesterol, some people's bodies make a lot of cholesterol and they need medication in addition to diet and exercise in order to get cholesterol down to a healthy level.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Your-Treatment-Making-a-Commitment

Talking to your doctor

It's hard to make a real commitment to your treatment unless you fully understand how it will help and what the risks may be. People may stop taking a medication that is helping them or stop eating a healthier diet because they don't understand all the risks and benefits of treatment. Your doctor can provide you with this information – here are a few questions to ask:

  1. What is the benefit of using this treatment?
  2. How much will this treatment reduce my risk of heart attack and stroke? (ask for specific numbers)
  3. What are the main risks of this treatment?
  4. How likely are these treatment risks? (ask for specific numbers)

Your doctor can give you a realistic idea of the benefits and risks of your treatment, so you can make an informed decision. Your doctor can also help you take control of your treatment by helping you learn more about what to expect from your treatment and what you should do if side effects occur.

Taking control of your treatment:

  1. When can I expect results from my treatment?
  2. How will I know that my treatment is working?
  3. What side effects should I be looking for (this doesn't only apply to medication users), and what should I do if they happen? (Ask your doctor to be specific about exactly what you should do, such as "stop taking the medication", "get immediate medical attention," or "make an appointment with your doctor next week")
  4. When should I come back to have my cholesterol checked?
  5. What target levels of cholesterol should I be aiming for? What are my levels now?
  6. What changes should I be making in my lifestyle (e.g., diet, exercise) to help get my cholesterol to healthy levels?

Talking to your doctor can help you make an informed decision about cholesterol treatment, and take control of the treatment plan that you and your doctor choose. If you're not sure of the answers to any of the questions above, make an appointment to see your doctor about your cholesterol treatment!

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Your-Treatment-Making-a-Commitment