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Statins and Cholesterol: What You Need to Know

, Statins and Cholesterol: What You Need to Know

Heart disease, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular problems are often caused by the buildup of plaque on arterial walls within the body. Plaque buildup occurs as a result of atherosclerosis, colloquially known as “hardening of the arteries.” Low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol) is generally the culprit. Over time, atherosclerosis results from arterial plaque collecting at specific points and hardening. This narrows the artery itself, which means that the heart must work harder to achieve the blood flow prior to the obstruction. This translates into a variety of problems for those with substantial arterial plaque: decreased mobility, increased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, etc. Arterial plaque may also rupture suddenly and the resulting blood clot can cause a heart attack.

With such severe consequences, many members of the public are curious about statins and the role they play in treating cholesterol levels. Simply put, statins are pharmaceutical drugs that help lower cholesterol. In recent decades, the American Heart Association has advocated strict clinical guidelines regarding when and how statins should be used during treatment for high cholesterol. These guidelines have recently undergone a shift toward lifestyle factors, acknowledging the impact that obesity and large amounts of sedentary activity have the heart.

New research, however, indicates that making positive lifestyle choices can substantially lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems. What are these positive lifestyle choices and what can people do in their everyday lives to minimize their chances for cardiovascular problems and corresponding expensive statins? A preventive lifestyle begins with proper weight management and healthy dieting. Eating whole foods, vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and meats ensures that your body will have the nutrition it needs. Pairing healthy dieting with cardiovascular exercise is also essential, as it will help maintain cardiovascular strength as you age. This is especially important given that heart muscle ages and loses pliability just like skeletal muscle. If you keep your heart muscle in shape as your age, you minimize performance loss and consequently lessen the strain placed on your heart during routine activity.

Essentially, doctors are now advocating a preventive approach to reduce the impact of heart disease on the US healthcare delivery system. While positive lifestyle choices will not eliminate heart disease, it will drastically decrease the annual number of new cases, as well as reduce the severity of the cases themselves. Doctors will continue to prescribe statins, but lifestyle factors (as opposed to numerical cholesterol values) will factor more heavily in the decision going forward.


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