Heart specialist on ‘exciting’ new treatment to lower high cholesterol
High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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“There has been some exciting new developments in drug treatment options for high cholesterol,” said Doctor Foale. Patients are now being offered an alternative medication to statins, known as PCSK9 inhibitors. “Currently the medication is administered as an injection, rather than tablet form like statins,” said Doctor Foale.
While “still limited in availability”, specialist cardiologists, such as himself, are able to prescribe PCSK9 inhibitors.
The cholesterol-lowering drug works best in tandem with healthy lifestyle measures – the kind that are recommended when patients are offered statins.
“Statins are the current standard of treatment,” added Doctor Foale. “In most cases, statins will be taken for life.”
He cautioned: “Coming off them completely is known to significantly increase the risk of an individual experiencing another cardiovascular event (i.e., heart attack or stroke).”
Doctor Foale’s best advice when it comes to lowering cholesterol levels is to eat healthily and to exercise.
“Very fatty foods and processed foods are high in saturated fat, which means they contain high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL),” Doctor Foale began.
LDL, he explained, is “bad cholesterol, because high amounts of it in the blood can cause blockages in the arteries and increase the risk of heart problems or a stroke”.
“You should try to cut down on eating too many fatty foods, such as red meat (e.g. sausages), full-fat dairy and processed foods like biscuits and cakes.”
Doctor Foale continued: “There’s practically no cholesterol in vegetable products so vegetarians often have lower cholesterol levels.
“Other low-cholesterol foods include oily fish, brown rice and bread, and nuts and seeds.”
Doctor Foale also made clear that “high cholesterol is related to body weight”.
“Regular exercise in one of the most effective lifestyle changes you can make to maintain a healthy body weight and lower your cholesterol levels,” he emphasised.
Adults are encouraged to do “at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week”.
Doctor Foale stated this could include “a brisk walk, running, swimming, or cycling”.
There are also two unhealthy habits one needs to refrain from if they want health cholesterol levels: smoking and drinking alcohol.
“Smoking makes your LDL cholesterol ‘stickier’, causing it to cling to your artery walls and subsequently clog them,” he warned.
“Clogged arteries (aka plaques) can cause dangerous blockages and put you at risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
“By stopping smoking, your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol will decrease, and ‘good’ cholesterol will increase, helping to slow the build-up of plaques and reducing your risk of heart disease.”
As for drinking alcohol, it “raises the level of triglycerides” in the blood, in addition to cholesterol.
Dr Rodney Foale is the consultant cardiologist at The Harley Street Clinic (part of HCA Healthcare UK), which offers PCSK9 inhibitors to help lower cholesterol levels.
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