Newly Diagnosed with High Cholesterol?
Health issues due to the pandemic affected nearly everyone in 2020. Lockdowns and working from home wreaked havoc with exercise routines. For many, stress eating and drinking replaced healthy habits. The result: millions of Americans know they gained weight last year. But many may not realize that weight gain alongside months of anxiety and stress might also have elevated blood pressure. And that is alarming as weight gain, alcohol consumption, and elevated blood pressure all increase risk of heart disease… sometimes significantly.
So if you’ve had—or are about to have—an overdue physical, don’t be surprised if your doctor newly diagnoses you with high cholesterol (or high blood pressure or diabetes.) If that happens, please know that you are not alone; the American Psychological Association’s ‘Stress in America’ poll found that, One year on: Unhealthy weight gains, increased drinking reported by Americans coping with pandemic stress.
What should you do if you find yourself in the upsetting position of being newly diagnosed with high cholesterol and your doctor suggests a cholesterol-lowering stain medication? Discuss it! Ask questions! Ask if you have options! Ask if a stain is vital—or if you are candidate for trying to reduce cholesterol with diet and exercise, first. Because if you don’t have other heart disease risk factors, you may be able to naturally reduce your cholesterol and heart disease risk.
What do to if newly diagnosed with high cholesterol?
- First things first: if you don’t know your detailed cholesterol test result, ask your doctor (or the lab) for a report. You will be better able to discuss options with your doctor when you have your full information! (Plus, you need it for step 2, below. Plus, keeping & tracking your lab results is important for actively managing your health and treatment plans with your doctor on an ongoing basis.)
- Second: calculate your 10-year risk of heart disease. It’s very simple to do with this online calculator—the same ones doctors use—and all you have to do is input a few numbers to see your risk level.
- Then talk to your doctor about the treatment plan that’s best for YOU. It might indeed be a statin. But it might well be that you can try diet and exercise for 6 months to see if you can lower your cholesterol and heart disease risk. Statins have risks and once started many don’t stop taking them, so it’s worth seeing if a lifestyle adjustment can help.
Learning more about cholesterol, heart disease risk and treatment options will prepare you to ask your doctor questions and discuss the treatment options that are best for you.
- My RESOURCES page has information about calculating your 10-year risk of heart disease, interpreting test results, and about food & exercise that can help lower cholesterol.
- My COOKBOOKS have chapters where I explain cholesterol and how to lower it with lifestyle changes, along with dietician-created recipes.
- I’ve compiled below links to articles those newly diagnosed with high cholesterol might find helpful:
Heart Disease Risk and Treatment
- What’s Your Heart Disease Risk?
- The 2018 Guidelines on the Management of Blood Cholesterol
- The NEW guidelines for cholesterol-lowering statin meds (Note: this is 2013 but useful background)
- Cholesterol Treatment—Guidelines Pocket Cards for Doctors
- Mayo Clinic’s Cholesterol Test article for information about cholesterol test results.
- Triglycerides, from Cleveland Clinic
- See also RESOURCES for more articles about how cholesterol and elevated heart disease risk
Heart Disease Risk Calculators
- Calculating Heart Disease Risk
- Calculate Your Heart Attack Risk Online
- Risk Calculator: American College of Cardiology’s ASCVD Risk Estimator Plus
Further Testing Before Starting a Statin
- If You MIGHT Need a Statin, Consider a CAC Scan
- Cholesterol Tests Your Doctor Hasn’t Told You About
- Why You Should Ask Your Doctor About HS-CRP
- Uncommon But Important Cholesterol Tests
- Why You Should Ask For Advanced Lipid Testing
If you’re newly diagnosed with high cholesterol there are things you can do to lower your heart disease risk with diet and exercise—and they’re heart-healthy changes anyone can make whether you need a cholesterol-lowering statin or not. Learning about cholesterol and testing options and treatment plans can help relieve anxiety and give you the tools you need to actively manage your treatment plan with your doctor.