Amanda Barrett, MA
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) offers cholesterol guidelines for men and women.
High levels of LDL
and/or low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol, are major risk factors for heart attack and stroke, two of the most common causes of death in the US.
The good news is that most people can control major heart disease risk factors, including cholesterol levels, smoking, excessive weight, lack of exercise,
high blood pressure, and
type 2 diabetes.
Screening for lipid disorders like high cholesterol depends on your age and whether you have any risk factors for heart disease.
The guidelines propose different recommendations depending on a person’s degree of risk of heart attack within the next ten years. This risk is determined by the presence of several risk factors, including history of heart attack or stroke, unstable or stable
(chest pain), history of coronary artery procedures, evidence of clogged arteries (myocardial ischemia), diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, family history of heart disease, and age.
There are 3 major risk levels:
NCEP's recommendations include:
The guidelines also state that drug treatment for high-risk patients must be aggressive enough to achieve at least a 30%-40% reduction in LDL levels. In addition to drug therapy, NCEP stresses the importance of initiating therapeutic lifestyle changes in high-risk persons—regardless of cholesterol level—since lifestyle changes can reduce cardiovascular risk in several ways besides lowering cholesterol.
NCEP recommends the following lifestyle changes:
Diet and exercise remain the first-line treatment option for high cholesterol in those at low to moderate risk for heart disease. And, most certainly, they are measures of prevention that everyone should heed.
If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels and your risk for heart disease, talk to your doctor. There are steps that you can take to reduce the risk.
Statins are often prescribed for high cholesterol. They are designed to be used in combination with lifestyle therapy. Statins works by blocking an enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) that helps the body make cholesterol. The benefit from these medicines may also come from their anti-inflammation properties.
Statin drugs have proven to be effective in reducing cholesterol levels. These medicines may also reduce the incidence of heart attack, stroke, and death.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association. 2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults.
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013: early online. Available at:
http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1879710&resultClick=3. Accessed August 12, 2015.
Cardiovascular disease prevention overview. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated July 29, 2015. Accessed August 12, 2015.
Third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) expert panel on detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Available at
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/guidelines/atp3xsum.pdf. Accessed August 12, 2015.
Statins. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 24, 2015. Accessed August 12, 2015.
What your cholesterol levels mean. American Heart Association. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/What-Your-Cholesterol-Levels-Mean_UCM_305562_Article.jsp. Updated July 7, 2015. Accessed August 12, 2015.
Last reviewed August 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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