Cholesterol image courtesy of Flickr/barkbud

After a physical examination, a man finds out his cholesterol is slightly high. The doctor tells him that it is not yet bad enough to require medication, but tells him to do at least 15 minutes of “heavy breathing exercise” a day. Feeling pretty lucky, the man goes home and tells his wife suggestively how she can help him get his exercise. She promptly gets on the phone and enrolls him in a kickboxing class. Feeling rejected, the man explains to her that he had something else in mind to help him get his exercise. She replies back that the doctor said, “it has to last at least fifteen minutes!

Although humorous, this short anecdote highlights a number of truths about cholesterol.

First, cholesterol levels rise naturally over time and cholesterol affects almost everyone at some point in their lives. In fact, most doctors recommend that you should have your cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years starting at just 20 years old. For men aged 35, and women aged 45, cholesterol levels become even more of a concern and should be checked much more frequently. This also points out that men are much more susceptible to high cholesterol at an earlier age. Other causes of high cholesterol levels include diet, lifestyle, and genetics. Diet may have one of the most direct effects on cholesterol levels; a sedentary lifestyle can also be held responsible for an increase in cholesterol; and if members of your family deal with high cholesterol, you have a much greater risk for developing it yourself. So what is the take-home message here? Keep track of your cholesterol levels!

Another thing the anecdote above highlights is how to treat high cholesterol. The most direct and healthy way to lower or control your cholesterol level is to eat a healthier diet and get more exercise. In fact, as the anecdote suggests, exercise is typically one of the first things your doctor may suggest if your cholesterol levels are becoming unhealthy. A change in diet, as previously mentioned, is also one of the first things your doctor may suggest to control your cholesterol. Although these are some of the healthiest ways to deal with high cholesterol, a change in diet and exercise is, for many, not sufficient to reduce their cholesterol to a safe level. For many others, a change in diet and exercise is not possible, especially for those who are already on a strict diet or who are disabled. In these cases, doctors will likely prescribe medication.

Common Medications That Treat High Cholesterol

The most common type of medications used to treat high cholesterol are statin drugs. Statin drugs are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, which means they inhibit cholesterol production in your body. They can actually reduce your overall cholesterol by up to 60 percent. Commonly prescribed statin medications include Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, and Mevacor (also known as Altoprev), which you can order online from You! Drugstore. There are other types of drugs that are commonly used to treat high cholesterol as well.

Ezetrol (also known as Zetia) and its generic version, Ezetimibe, are cholesterol absorbtion inhibitors that help prevent your body from absorbing as much cholesterol from the food you eat. Another drug that is known to actively reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol is generic Fenofibrate. Fenofibrate is one of the most widely prescribed medications for those at risk for cardiovascular disease. It is also sold under the brand name Lipidil (also known as Tricor). In general terms, Fenofibrate works by telling your liver to stop producing different types of cholesterol, leading to a significant decrease in your cholesterol levels. It quickly reduces both low-density lipoprotein and very low-density lipoprotein (another major type of cholesterol) while increasing high-density lipoprotein. It also helps reduce your triglyceride levels. Read more about the different types of cholesterol below.

If you have a prescription for any of these medications, you can fill it at You! Drugstore by logging in or Registering a new account.

But what is cholesterol and why is cholesterol bad for you?

Cholesterol is actually one of the most important substances in your body. It is a form of fat called a lipid. It helps build and protect your cells, it produces hormones and vitamin D, and it even plays a crucial role in neurological functioning and memory formation. However, when there is too much cholesterol in your body it poses a major risk to your health. There are five major types of cholesterol in your body, but doctors are mostly concerned with only two of them: LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, is commonly referred to as the bad cholesterol. This is because LDL cholesterol is responsible for clogging arteries, damaging arterial walls, increasing blood pressure, and causing heart disease. HDL cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, is commonly referred to as the good cholesterol because it helps reverse the effects of LDL cholesterol by removing cholesterol deposits from your blood while also cleaning your arterial walls. Statin medications have been found to actually increase HDL cholesterol while reducing overall cholesterol levels.

Wait: What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are another form of fat lipid – similar to cholesterol – that your body needs. Like cholesterol, a high triglyceride level can pose a major risk for cardiovascular disease. Your triglyceride level rises when you consume foods that contain fat, or when you consume extra calories, carbohydrates, or simple sugars. Your triglyceride level also rises when your body releases energy from your fat stores. The best way to control or lower your triglyceride levels is to control or lower the amount of fat, sugar, or alcohol you consume.

If you are worried about your cholesterol or triglyceride levels, make an appointment with your doctor to have them checked. If you are concerned with keeping them at a healthy level, be sure to get plenty of exercise and eat a low-fat, healthy diet.