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Prescribed statins but not taking them? Here’s why you should still do something about your cholesterol.

Prescribed statins but not taking them? Here’s why you should still do something about your cholesterol.

For a variety of reasons, a substantial proportion of seniors  -- 37%, according to this study -- with high cholesterol choose not to take statins.   

I understand why not everyone wants to take lipid-lowering drugs: Some patients experience aches and pains while taking statins and ask for an alternative. Occasionally people experience brain fog.  Or they’ve had liver side effects.  Or other symptoms that appear to be related to starting the medications. 

But – and this is an important point - some patients should be on statins and doctors need to try everything they can to keep them on these medications: after all they can be life-saving for people with heart disease or diabetes. But even people without heart disease or diabetes who have let their statin prescriptions lapse should not simply ignore high LDL numbers and hope for the best.

If they do, they’re risking their heart health. A rise in LDL level is associated with a similar rise in heart disease risk. And that association is stronger when LDL is elevated for a long time.

So basically anyone with high cholesterol should be finding ways to lower their numbers.

It’s not as easy for doctors to prescribe lifestyle changes as it is for them to prescribe pills. But, as you know if you’re reading this, it’s also possible to improve your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

If you’re a smoker, remember that smoking causes 25% of deaths from cardiovascular disease. That’s because smoking can lower your good (HDL) cholesterol, make blood likelier to clot, oxidize LDL (making it more toxic) and increase plaque buildup in blood vessels. Quitting can markedly impact those effects – and yield real benefits quickly:  The risk of heart attack goes down measurably within 24 hours of stopping smoking! 

If you’re sedentary, exercise can help improve your blood pressure and cholesterol readings (not to mention preventing excess weight, depression, cancer, and dementia!)

And if you’re not consistently filling your plate with whole, plant-based foods, changing what you eat could help lower your bad cholesterol levels. Your strategy could include following these seven words of advice from Michael Pollan, adhering to the principles of the Mediterranean diet -- or, at a minimum, letting Step One Foods do the work. If you haven’t yet, check how your cholesterol levels change after swapping out two of our products for two daily snacks.  

If you need even more reasons to actively keep your cholesterol in check, think about your checkbook: In this study, we found that using food to lower cholesterol can save big on health costs. Next month, we’ll take a deeper dive into exactly how much money food as medicine could save.

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