More than 100 million U.S. adults have high cholesterol, a major risk factor for developing heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Two out of three don’t have the condition under control and more than half don’t get treatment, the CDC reports. What’s more, three in 10 patients who experience side effects from their cholesterol medication discontinue treatment, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Why are so many people with high cholesterol taking risks by not treating their condition?
"I find that many patients don’t fully understand the serious consequences of high cholesterol, and it’s not a condition that causes symptoms they can feel,” says Dr. Shawn Dhillon, founder and medical director of the Calvert Medical Group in Baltimore and a leading authority on cholesterol. “Unfortunately, this can often lead them to not seek treatment or stop taking their medicine that helps keep their cholesterol levels under control."
Untreated high cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack. To lower cholesterol, doctors often prescribe statins, a treatment category that includes more than seven different types currently available. Despite the proven impact of statins on lowering cholesterol, at least 50 percent of people stop taking their prescribed statin within one year of starting it, according to a 2012 survey which was the largest known cholesterol survey conducted in the U.S.
“When patients are first diagnosed with high cholesterol, I help them understand what the diagnosis means for their lifestyle and why they need to take their statin daily,” says Dhillon, who personally has high cholesterol and takes the statin LIVALO® (pitavastatin) daily to treat his condition. “It’s also crucial to have a conversation with my patients about questions or concerns about their statin. By identifying any issues, I can either change the amount of the medicine or try a different statin that might be more appropriate for them instead so they don’t give up on their medicine.”
Want to learn more about high cholesterol and treatment options? Take this quiz to get the skinny on cholesterol risks and treatments:
1. All cholesterol is bad. True or false?
Answer: False! Your body actually needs some cholesterol — a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs in two “forms.” Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) makes up most of the body’s cholesterol, and is the "bad" cholesterol. Having high levels of LDL-C can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease and stroke. Statins work by blocking the important enzyme that your liver needs to produce the bad cholesterol in your body. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) is "good” cholesterol, with doctors recommending having levels of 60 or higher.
2. High cholesterol is caused by: A. Diet; B. Lifestyle; C. Heredity; or D. All of the above.
Answer: D. All of the above! While diet and lifestyle are leading causes of high cholesterol, some people may be predisposed to having high cholesterol due to family history.
3. I can control my high cholesterol by: A. Eating fewer fatty foods and carbohydrates; B. Exercising more; C. Taking medication; D. All of the above.
Answer: D. All of the above! Many people will need to take medication like a statin to help control their high cholesterol, on top of practicing healthy food habits and exercising.
4. Cholesterol-lowering medications, called statins, are all the same. True or false?
Answer: False! Statins are the most common type of cholesterol-lowering medication, but they are not all the same. In fact, there are seven different statins currently available. Many statins have a risk of interacting with other drugs or substances due to how they're processed in the body. Perhaps the most commonly known interaction is the conflict between some statins and grapefruit, but medications such as those for high blood pressure and the prevention of blood clots, even many over-the-counter medications and supplements, also have the potential to cause issues when taken with certain statins. However, LIVALO, along with a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise, can improve overall cholesterol levels while having a lower risk of certain unpredictable drug interactions based upon how it's processed in the body.
Finding the right statin to treat your high cholesterol is vital, Dr. Dhillon says.
“Statins are first-line medications for treating high cholesterol, and their safety and effectiveness are supported by years of research, clinical trials and years of good patient outcomes,” he says. “However, common side effects, such as muscle aches and overall fatigue, may deter people from taking their medication. That’s why it is essential that people have an open dialogue with their doctor to ensure they find a statin that works for them, as an individual.”
Dr. Dhillon says LIVALO is his top choice to help his patients manage their cholesterol because the medication differs from other statins in some important ways, including:
* The body breaks down LIVALO differently than most other statins, so it can be less likely to interact with other medicines (including commonly prescribed medications for high blood pressure and the prevention of blood clots), vitamins and supplements.
* Because LIVALO is metabolized through a different pathway in the body, patients are also able to eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice. Certain statins, other than LIVALO, may interact with grapefruit and grapefruit juice resulting in too much drug in the blood stream, increasing the risk of adverse events.
* The FDA has recently cautioned the public on the potential adverse effect of statins on glucose levels as a side effect of statin therapy. Importantly, LIVALO has been studied in patients with Type 2 Diabetes, many of which are on multiple medications and demonstrated a non-significant change in blood glucose levels.
“Unmanaged high cholesterol can lead to serious health consequences, including heart disease,” Dhillon says. “The good news is, making healthy lifestyle choices including diet and exercise, and finding the right statin for you, are effective ways to manage your high cholesterol.”
Visit livalorx.com/info to learn more.
Important Safety Information for LIVALO® (pitavastatin) tablets
Who should NOT take LIVALO?
LIVALO is not right for everyone. Do not take LIVALO if:
What is the most important information I should know and talk to my doctor about?
What are the most common side effects of LIVALO?
The most common side effects of LIVALO in clinical studies were:
This is not a complete list of side effects. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of all drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
How should I store and take LIVALO?
Other important information I should know about LIVALO.