Many doctors say yes, because in combination with a healthier diet, weight loss and regular exercise, there should be significant changes in cholesterol levels in about two to four weeks after starting some medications. The most common medications include drugs known as statins. Statins lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).
Lifestyle changes are extremely important in the battle against high cholesterol. Statistics show that dieting, losing weight and exercising can result in a 5% to 10% decrease in LDL cholesterol. But for some people with extremely high levels of LDL cholesterol or triglycerides, these changes are not enough. A reduction of 10% may still not bring their level down to what is considered a safe range.
Doctors will take other factors into account in addition to cholesterol level before prescribing statins. Among these factors are family history, overall health, the presence of diabetes and whether a patient is overweight or a smoker.
What concerns many people about statins is their side effects. As with all medications, statins come with possible side effects. Common side effects include headache, upset stomach, muscle and joint aches and rash. In rare cases, people may experience liver or muscle damage. But even if there is liver damage, it will reverse itself after a person stops taking statins.
Some doctors say the risk of statin side effects is lower than the risk of suffering side effects from taking aspirins. They also say the benefits of taking statins far outweigh the risks. In fact, they can actually improve the condition of the liver, because many people with high cholesterol have fat or triglyceride buildup in their liver.
Many people also worry that they will have to take statins for the rest of their lives. Some doctors, however, say that’s not true for most people. They will need to take them every day for a while, but as treatments develop, there may be other options in the future.
But opinions on that vary. Other medical experts say statins are a lifelong commitment, and a person taking them may be able to get off them only if they lose a significant amount of weight or drastically change his or her diet. If a person stops taking statins, then cholesterol levels will probably go back up.
Exercising is one of the most important weapons against fighting high cholesterol levels. Regular physical activity has two cholesterol-related effects. It raises the level of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and also lowers the level of triglycerides, a substance linked to high cholesterol in the body. Exercise does not seem to lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) unless it leads to significant weight loss.
Popular opinion used to be that only aerobic, endurance exercises improved cholesterol levels. However, it turns out that greater weight loss and overall health benefits can be achieved by performing different types of exercises. Experts recommend combining three kinds of exercise to maximize effectiveness: aerobic exercises to increase heart rate, strength training to build muscle and exercises that improve flexibility. Regularly alternating the duration and the intensity of exercising helps lower triglyceride levels and also stimulate the metabolic enzyme systems in the muscles. These processes help the liver convert some of the body’s cholesterol into the good cholesterol.
While exercising, it is not important to feel the “burn.” In fact, too much intensity during exercise can lead to injury, especially in older adults. For the purposes of lowering cholesterol, frequency and amount of time spent exercising are important. Fitness experts say it’s best to exercise more often and for a longer period time at a lower intensity. That means at least 30 minutes a day, five or six days a week.
It is also good practice to mix exercises. Doing the same exercises every day will eventually become less effective because the body will no longer respond the way it did before. If the body isn’t responding to exercise, then the levels of cholesterol will eventually remain unchanged. For the best advice on how to maximize your weight loss and cholesterol-lowering efforts, consult a doctor or a fitness expert.
While physical activity is beneficial for everyone, it is especially important for people who are overweight and obese to exercise regularly. The accumulation of fatty deposits can be extremely harmful later in life, leading to increased risk of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes by even clogging the blood vessels and arteries. Daily exercise also helps keep the heart pumping effectively, helping to keep the blood vessels clear and avoiding any cholesterol buildup.
Exercise is a great way to accomplish different things. It will help keep cholesterol levels low and will help keep weight at a healthy level. It will also lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of developing diabetes. Regular exercise also helps a person feel great and look great.