Cholesterol treatment: What's in it for me?

A typical cholesterol treatment plan involves eating a healthy diet, exercising, losing weight, quitting smoking, managing stress, and for many people, taking medication every day for life. It's a lot to ask, especially when you can't see or feel the changes in your cholesterol. At this point you may be wondering: what's in it for me?

It's an important question to ask, because understanding the benefits can help give you the motivation you need to stick to your treatment plan.

So here, in a nutshell, is what's in it for you:

If you reach your cholesterol targets, you'll have a lower risk of these health problems...

Health problem

Real-life problems you'll avoid

Heart disease

Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in Canada – more than 1 in 4 people die from it.


A stroke can permanently damage your brain, causing problems with speech, movement, memory, or coordination.

Heart attack

If you have a heart attack, your risk of dying is about 1 in 4. Your heart may suffer permanent damage and may not be able to pump as strongly, which could limit your activities. After a heart attack, you may need to start extra medications and may need surgical procedures.

Angina (chest pain)

Angina causes chest pain that may be brought on by stress or exercise. If you have angina you are at a higher risk of having a heart attack.

Circulation problems

Circulation problems can cause leg pain, gangrene, and even leg amputation.

Following your cholesterol treatment plan could save your life! The benefits are dramatic – studies show that lowering LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called the "bad cholesterol") greatly reduces the risk of having a heart attack or dying from cardiovascular disease (heart and blood vessel disease). In fact, for every 1.0 mmol/L drop in LDL (which most people can achieve by sticking to their treatment plan), your risk goes down by 20 to 25%.

The best news of all is that it can be easy to get these amazing benefits. All you need to do is talk to your doctor about your cholesterol treatment goals and targets, work with them to develop a treatment plan to get you there, and track your progress as you follow your plan. Your plan will probably involve healthy lifestyle changes plus medication. According to the latest Canadian cholesterol treatment guidelines, most people with high cholesterol should aim to lower their LDL cholesterol by at least 50%. Check with your doctor to see what targets you should aim for.

Use the Doctor Discussion Guide to help you prepare for your doctor's visit.

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