Keeping ‘bad’ cholesterol (or LDL cholesterol) at a low level in the blood is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Blood cholesterol levels can be lowered with diet and exercise, but many people at high risk also need a cholesterol-lowering medicine to help them reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
There are a number of different types of medicines available to help reduce your blood cholesterol levels. These include:
- bile acid-binding resins
- nicotinic acid, and
For people with high levels of blood triglycerides (a type of fat), high doses of fish oils may be prescribed.
A new medicine class called PCSK9 inhibitors has also recently become available in Australia, to help reduce LDL cholesterol in people with a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol, known as familial hypercholesterolaemia.
All of these medicines reduce blood levels of cholesterol, but they do so in different ways.
Statin medicines are the most common type of cholesterol-lowering medicine prescribed in Australia. However, some people will need to take an additional medicine to help them reach their cholesterol targets, or may need to take a different medicine because they cannot tolerate a statin.
Learn more about statin medicines.
Use a calendar, alarm or other system to help you remember to take your medicine
For medicines to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke they need to be taken every day and for the long term. Yet, like maintaining a healthy diet or exercising regularly, many people at risk of heart attack or stroke can find it challenging to stick with their prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicine.
In fact, about 1 in 4 Australians prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medicine stop taking it within the first year. One of the most common reasons people don’t take their medicines is because they forget. Make a note, tick off a calendar, or use a WebsterPak, dose set box or a plastic box with compartments to help you remember whether you’ve taken your medicine.
You can also use an app on your smartphone to remind yourself.
Learn how our MedicineWise smartphone app can help you stay on top of your medicines.
Tell your doctor if you think you are experiencing a side effect
All medicines can potentially cause side effects. Before you start a medicine, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for information about possible side effects and how to manage them.
It is also a good idea to read the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet available for the medicine. Use our Medicine Finder to locate the CMI for your prescription medicines.
Find out more about medicine side effects and interactions.
You can also call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE for more information about medicines or side effects.