Lowering Cholesterol to Prevent Heart Disease

One of the best things you can do for your long-term health is to lower cholesterol to prevent heart disease. High cholesterol is one of several risk factors for this condition, and several studies have examined the value of lowering cholesterol to prevent it. These studies found that there are significant benefits to lowering cholesterol, even among people who already have heart disease or among those with diabetes.

Lowering Cholesterol to Prevent Heart Disease: An Introduction

High cholesterol is one of several risk factors for heart disease. It does not cause damage over the course of days or weeks; but over the years, high blood cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing or complete blockage of arteries due to the buildup of plaque. The arteries most affected by plaque buildup are the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.

Understanding the Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Besides high cholesterol, other risk factors for heart disease include:
  • Being a man over the age of 55 or a woman over the age of 65
  • Having an immediate family member who died of heart disease before those ages
  • Using tobacco products
  • Having high blood pressure (also known as hypertension)
  • Having diabetes
  • Being overweight and/or leading an inactive lifestyle.
Your doctor will use your risk factors to calculate your 10-year risk for a heart attack or stroke. If your risk is 7.5 percent or greater, you probably need to be treated with a statin. Other groups, such as people with LDL of 190 mg/dL or more, are also advised to be on a statin, regardless of 10-year risk. 
Several studies have been carried out to see whether lowering cholesterol in such high-risk people would be beneficial.
(Click Heart Attack Risk to calculate your 10-year risk for a heart attack.)
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