Your cholesterol: Who's in the driver's seat?

Are you in charge of your cholesterol? If you want to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke, it's time to get in the driver's seat. Knowing and achieving your cholesterol targets could help save your life! Here's how to take control:

1. Set SMART goals with your doctor.

The first step in taking charge of your cholesterol is to set SMART goals:

Specific Describe exactly what you would like to do.
Measurable State how much and how often you will do it.
Attainable Choose a goal that can be reached using your skills and abilities.
Realistic Choose a goal you can reasonably commit to achieving.
Timely Specify when you will start working towards your goal and when you hope to achieve it.

An example of a SMART cholesterol treatment goal for a high-risk patient would be:

I will reduce my LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called “bad cholesterol”) so that it is under 2.0 mmol/L. I will start to work on this goal now and achieve my goal in 3 to 6 months.

This example is based on the latest cholesterol treatment guidelines. Talk to your doctor to confirm which cholesterol treatment goals are right for you. Your doctor will tailor your cholesterol treatment goals to suit your health history and your risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease.

2. Work with your doctor on your cholesterol treatment plan.

Once you've set some SMART goals, it's time to work with your doctor on a plan to help you get there. Your cholesterol treatment plan should include healthy lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking; eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products; getting 150 minutes of physical activity every week; reaching a healthy weight; and managing stress.

In addition to lifestyle changes, many people need medications to help them get their cholesterol on track, and some need more than one. If your doctor recommends a cholesterol medication, make sure you ask your doctor or pharmacist:

  • What is the medication called?
  • How should I take the medication (time of day, with or without food)?
  • What are the most common and serious side effects and how do I manage them?
  • Does the medication interact with any of my medications?
  • How should I store the medication?

It's also important to ask your doctor when to return for a follow-up appointment to see how your treatment is working and whether you are achieving your cholesterol goals.

If you already have a cholesterol treatment plan, ask your doctor whether it is helping you achieve your cholesterol goals, and if not, what you can do to change it.

3. Remember your goal and keep motivating yourself.

Once you've discussed your cholesterol goals and treatment plan with your doctor, write them down (or ask your doctor or caregiver to do this for you).

Keep your notes from the appointment somewhere safe that's also easy to access (some people like to tape it to the fridge or take notes on their smartphone) so that you can look at it frequently to remind yourself of your goals.

Bring your notes to each visit so you can keep track of your progress and stay motivated. It's important to evaluate the success of your treatment and work with your doctor to adjust your treatment as needed so that you can achieve your goals.

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