Having high cholesterol increased the chances for heart disease. Some of the conditions that put a person at high risk for heart disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis in the arteries of the legs
  • Plaque or narrowing in the carotid (neck) arteries that has caused a transient ischemic attack (TIA or "mini stroke") or a stroke
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm (a bulge in the main artery of the body)

By lowering blood cholesterol, your parent can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or other complications of heart disease.

There are four steps you can take to lower blood cholesterol:

Follow the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet

This low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet includes:

  • Less than 7% of the day's total calories from saturated fat.
  • 25-35 percent of the day's total calories from fat.
  • Less than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day.
  • Limit sodium intake to 2400 milligrams a day.
  • Just enough calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and reduce your blood cholesterol level. (Ask your doctor or registered dietitian the reasonable calorie level for your parent.)

Be More Physically Active

If your parent has heart disease, talk with your doctor before starting an activity to be sure he or she is are following a safe exercise program. If your parent has been inactive for a long time, he or she will be instructed to start with low-to-moderate level activities, such as:

  • Walking
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Gardening
  • Housework
  • Dancing
  • Exercising at home

Begin by doing the activity for a few minutes most days. Your doctor will then increase activity level. For most people, the goal is at least 30 minutes per day, 3 or 4 days per week. This can include regular aerobic activity, such as:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Playing tennis

If your parent has chest pain, feels faint or light-headed, or becomes extremely out of breath while exercising, stop the activity at once and tell your doctor as soon as possible. If your parent is currently recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, your doctor may suggest that he or she begin your new exercise program in a cardiac rehabilitation center. A cardiac rehabilitation center is a place that you can go to exercise under the supervision of a nurse or doctor.

Medication for High Cholesterol

Your doctor will prescribe a personalized treatment plan according to your parent's LDL-cholesterol level, which may include cholesterol lowering medication. The following is a description of cholesterol-lowering medicines.

  • Statins
  • Bile Acid Sequestrants
  • Nicotinic Acid
  • Fibrates

Even if your doctor starts your parent on a cholesterol-lowering drug, it is still important to adopt heart-healthy diet and lifestyle habits. These will help to bring a bigger drop in cholesterol level, and will reduce risk for future CHD in other ways as well.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institutes of Health, "Heart Failure" section, provides leadership for a national program in diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lung, and blood; blood resources; and sleep disorders.

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