According to Dr. Peter Lin, family physician and Director of the Primary Care Initiative at the Canadian Heart Research Centre, there is a great deal of evidence to support high cholesterol treatment. More than 40 years' worth of studies have shown that 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, Dr. Lin says, more aggressive treatment of cholesterol can lead to better results. A recent study suggests that 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. The study found that if you lower cholesterol enough you can actually shrink existing plaques. 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 recent 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. To learn more about what you can do to overcome these barriers, see "What you can do to stick with your treatment."
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