Men’s Health Month: Cholesterol medications & management

June is Men’s Health Month and a perfect time to focus on an important topic: cholesterol. Cholesterol is a natural part of a healthy, functioning body. However, if cholesterol levels get out of balance from weight gain, diet, or even genetics, this can put you at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.

As heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, monitoring and controlling cholesterol is critical. Diet, exercise, and medication can all work together to maintain healthy cholesterol.

Healthy cholesterol levels for men

There are different types of cholesterol measured on a cholesterol test. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol, while high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” cholesterol. Non-HDL shows the number of total cholesterol minus your HDL. You’ll also see a total for triglycerides, which is another form of fat than can increase your risk for heart disease.

When looking at a cholesterol test, men over 20 should aim for:

  • Total cholesterol: 125 – 200mg/dL
  • Non-HDL: < 130 mg/dL
  • Triglyceride: < 150 gm/dL
  • LDL: < 100 mg/dL
  • HDL: > 40 mg/dL

Men should get a cholesterol test every 5 years between the ages of 20–45, then every 1 or 2 years after age 45.

Top cholesterol medications

There’s no need to panic if you have higher than ideal numbers on your cholesterol test, but you should take action. High cholesterol can be lowered through lifestyle changes like healthy eating, weight management, exercise, quitting smoking, and managing stress. If lifestyle changes aren’t able to help, your doctor may prescribe cholesterol medication to help lower your cholesterol.

Statins:

When you have high cholesterol, one of the main ways to get those levels back in check is to lower LDL cholesterol. Statins are a common type of medication used to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, which block your liver from making too much cholesterol. While there are many types of statins on the market, some of the most common are Lipitor® (atorvastatin), Crestor® (rosuvastatin), and Zocor (simvastatin).

A rare, but serious side effect of statins is muscle weakness and pain. If you experience either of those, call your doctor and they may change your medication. Other side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

Other Cholesterol Options:

Your doctor has many cholesterol management tools in their toolbox. They may add on other medications such as Zetia® (ezetimbe), Niacin, Lopid®, (gemfibrozil), or others to help control your lipid levels. These medications can work to help keep your heart healthy.

Monitoring and managing cholesterol are crucial to reducing the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. For more health tips for men, visit our blog post: June is Men’s Health Month. Visit Optum Perks for discounts on Lipitor, Crestor, Niacin, and other medications at your local pharmacy.