ZocdocAnswersCan I fight high cholesterol without resorting to prescription medication?

Question

Can I fight high cholesterol without resorting to prescription medication?

I am a 53 year old male at a healthy weight for my height. I'm pretty healthy and active, overall, eating primarily fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry. I watch what I eat and exercise regularly, including at least three days per week at the gym. However, my doctor recently prescribed Lipitor to lower my cholesterol levels. He said I will likely be taking this medication indefinitely. What I am worried about is how the medication might affect other areas of my life. Are there common side effects associated with taking Lipitor as a cholesterol lowering medication, that I should be aware of? If there are side effects with Lipitor, is this medication my best option, or can I work harder in other areas of my life to fight high cholesterol without taking a prescription medication?

Answer

You ask an excellent question and it sounds like you are doing all of the right things in paying attention to your lifestyle choices and trying to build healthy eating habits and exercise into your regular routine. These are all excellent things to do and will help maintain and protect your cardiac health moving forward. With regard to cholesterol, it is true that both exercise and dietary changes can lower cholesterol, but there is also a significant genetic component that determines what a person's cholesterol levels will be. In your case, it is quite possible that despite doing all of the right things and making healthy choices that your cholesterol will still be higher than is optimal because of genetic influences that you (of course) can't control. If your doctor has recommended lipitor to help reduce your cholesterol, then it means your levels are above what is believed to be a threshold associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you are concerned about taking a medication daily, you should discuss this with your doctor. Depending upon exactly how high your levels are, it may be possible to try to get them lower with further lifestyle change. However, if your levels are quite high, then taking a statin medication may be the best way to keep you healthy in the long term . Statins are usually quite well tolerated. Again, please discuss this with your doctor.

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